Dark Stuff: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Antigravity.

Gratuitous space image. Dark matter and dark energy are invisible.

This is an overview of ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’, that was started back in 2016 but published until I was recently asked again. The TLDR; is that no-one knows what dark matter or dark energy are, and it is not even absolutely certain that either exists. In fact, my addition to the official version, is that neither need exist. Both dark matter and energy are possible explanations for for things we do not understand, but not the only possible explanations. That being said, a significant majority of physicists do believe dark matter does exist, and many are looking to find it.

  • Dark Matter:
    • What does ‘dark matter’ mean?
    • Why? Because known matter does not explain observed gravity.
      1. So there must be matter we don’t know about: Dark Matter.
        • Its hiding. Dark matter is just matter we have not found.
        • Or, It is matter, but not as we know it.
      2. Or, maybe we have gravity wrong!
  • Dark Energy.
    • What is dark energy?
    • Why? Something is accelerating the expansion of the universe?
  • Antigravity.
  • The unofficial explanation: food for thought?
Continue reading “Dark Stuff: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Antigravity.”

A Timeline of Our Solar System.

I feel this a useful reference. It is just collation of data from a variety of resources, as in the table below, and then mapped onto one year, to give perspective of ‘how long through the year’ various events are.

The timeline is based on the life of the Sun from formation through the inevitable ‘red giant’ phase when the Sun will expand to either engulf, or almost engulf the Earth. The ‘green’ section indicates the short time during the ‘life’ of the solar system that the Earth can support ‘life as we know it’ on land. The orange section is the time before the atmosphere could support life on land, and the red section represents the time when CO2 levels can no longer support plant life, and the earth is set to become like Venus. On the one year time line, we need to find another home by tomorrow, and that is without climate change or any problems created by people.

Key Timeline Observations & Discussion Points.

  • Life On Earth Began Early and without oxygen.
  • It took around half the time there has been life, to evolve to, but Evolution started slowly.
  • The Brief Burst of Life on Land.
  • Cyanobacteria: The first photosynthesis.
  • Thermal Runaway.

First On Earth Began Early: But Evolution started slowly.

Life began within 500 million years, which may sound like a long time, but considering the Earth was formed as a result of a sequence of collisions, and would have taken time to become even close to stable. Life had to form in the oceans given that land was inhabitable at the time, and we have evidence of life going back as far as we have evidence of oceans.

Given how quickly life arose, it seems surprising that it took another 2 billion years to single celled organisms, and 3 billion years to get to multicellular organisms. For 3/4 of the time there has been life, all life was single cell life, and there were no animals at all. Evolution was slow to get started!

The Brief Burst of Life on Land.

On the ‘annual calendar’ life on land provides only three weeks to live on land. Life on land becomes possible in early June, and ends before the month is over. This is become by the time the plants have transformed that atmosphere to have enough Oxygen to form ozone to block deadly radiation reaching the Earths surface, the CO2 supply is running low. Plants keep compensating for the ever increasing heat from the Sun by consuming CO2 and reducing greenhouse gas during the first half of the life of the solar system, but once CO2 levels are two low for plants to continue, all life will end as the planet enters thermal runaway, unless the Earth finds a new solution to controlling the temperature for the second half. The Earth will join Venus as a planet with temperatures beyond the temperature where water boils.

The Earth will have supported life on land for less than 1/20th of the life of the solar system.

Cyanobacteria: The first photosynthesis.

The current building block of life, photosynthesis, was not even present during the first billion years of life, and green plants were not present during the first 3 billion years, evolving only 1 billion years ago.

Thermal Runaway.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is goldihz_flux.jpg

You may have heard of the ‘goldilocks zone‘. The distance from a star that is ‘not too hot’ and ‘not too cold’. The Earth is now at the very edge of that zone, as the zone continues to move away from the sun and will soon encounter thermal runaway, where temperature increases add more water vapour to the atmosphere. Since water vapour is a greenhouse gas, the Earth then heats further, adding more water vapour as a result. The end result: Earth will become another Venus with temperatures rapidly soaring beyond those where life is possible.

Given the rapid pace of technological advancement, 25 million years should be more than enough time to find a solution, but in geological time 25 million years is not that long. All things considered, humans only just managed to evolve in time!

Years Relative to NowdateSource
Sun Formed-4,600,000,0001/01/2020Discover Magazine
Earth Formed-4,500,000,0004/01/2020Discover Magazine
First Life-4,000,000,00023/01/2020Livescience
Cyanobacteria-2,700,000,00013/03/2020Scientific American
o2 – Oxygen-2,400,000,00024/03/2020Great Oxygen Event
Eukaryotic (modern) cells -2,000,000,0008/04/2020New Scientist
Algae-1,200,000,0009/05/2020Scientific American
First Animals-800,000,00024/05/2020Natural History
Plant Life On Land-470,000,0006/06/2020New Scientist
First Insects-406,000,0008/06/2020AAAS.org
First Dinosaurs-231,000,00015/06/2020BBC Science Focus
First Mammals-160,000,00017/06/2020Livescience
Humans-500,00023/06/2020Discover Magazine
Thermal runaway25,000,00024/06/2020
Sun Is A Red Giant5,000,000,00031/12/2020

Dilemma: Should Facebook own the Internet (or world)?

From common dreams article. Facebook’s Internet.org Isn’t the Internet, It’s Facebooknet

Since Facebook launched and entered the influence industry, they have been running what sounds like a deal almost ‘too good to be true’. Using Facebook, you can have your own place on the web, completely for free. While there are many, many, organisations that will host your web site for a price, Facebook will host a website for you, completely for free. An internet presence for all, with no charge!

Or is it?

I have always felt uneasy about how all this works, but have previously not given the question sufficient attention to pin down the exact problem. Is there such a thing as a free lunch aftercall?

This exploration is a work in progress on a journey to answer: Facebook, a problem, or not? Currently becoming relatively cohesive at update no 3 as of March 2, with a possible further update March 8.

Continue reading “Dilemma: Should Facebook own the Internet (or world)?”

5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth & UWB: Why do we need them, and how do they all fit?

I recently researched 5G, in order to understand what it was all about, and the reality of any possible new health risks. I came to the conclusions that 1) health risk claims are groundless, and 2) there is no logical reason to upgrade devices at this time to get 5G. But how compelling might it be to upgrade devices to get benefits of new Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or UWB?

Apart from finding that the most significant real risks from mobile data have nothing to do with 5G, there was still the suggestion that, with promised data download speeds of 5G, home Wi-Fi, and possibly even Bluetooth, could all become obsolete at some point. Will everything will become part of the ‘internet of things’ and directly connect to 5G? Is other connectivity still useful, and what connectivity should we look for when buying TVs, headphones, phones, speakers and and even household appliances? What do all the standard for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even UWB mean and what matters? Many questions!

Continue reading “5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth & UWB: Why do we need them, and how do they all fit?”

The Limitations of Perception

What humans can perceive is not reality in full, but our own picture of reality, constructed by our brains from clues to reality collected by our senses. Science allows us to understand far more, and provides instruments to extend our perception, allowing continual improvement of our picture of reality, but know we do not yet have a complete picture.

A famous thought experiment by Plato is referred to as the allegory of the cave:

In the ‘allegory of the cave’, Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners’ reality but are not accurate representations of the real world. Three higher levels exist: the natural sciencesmathematicsgeometry, and deductive logic; and the theory of forms.

From Wikipedia page on Allegory of the cave

This page looks at a simpler more direct view on how ‘there is far more to the universe that our senses reveal’, the counterintuitive things we have already learnt and what is still to be learnt. Perhaps, less profound than the point made by Plato, but still an interesting perspective.

Continue reading “The Limitations of Perception”

What the F is 5G? What is new, and what are the risks?

Now for something not Covid-19, which is a rarity lately! A different topic for this blog, but 5G came up in a recent conversation, and what I thought I ‘knew’ about 5G was:

  • significantly higher mobile data rates were possible (true)
  • 5G is based on higher frequency radio than 4G etc (false)
  • 5G works for far more people even in a crowded spaces (true)
  • towers for 5G must always be close in order us 5G (false)
  • 5G data rates could potentially match/replace fibre optic cable (false)

As you can see, turns out what I had thought prior to research, was all a collection of misunderstandings. From what I had heard, it seemed to be there was revolution taking place in mobile networks, and 5G meant giving up much of what we have now, all for very little gain. If the case for moving to 5G is questionable, then is there a reason for the conspiracy theories? So I thought I should become more informed, and this page is the result. There has been a lot of confusing information about 5G.

When I started looking, I found conspiracy theories and discussion in complete ignorance of 5G actual technology, and alternatively, deep technical discussion on details of the technology that can seem biased towards selling why we all need 5G, with its wonderful technology and ultra fast speed. So I looked to distil what seemed relevant to me about 5G itself and real health risks. This page is the result, and perhaps others may also find the content relevant.

Key Points:

Continue reading “What the F is 5G? What is new, and what are the risks?”

Photons: What is electromagnetic radiation?

Radio waves, microwaves, millimetre waves, infra-red, visible light, ultra violet, x-rays, gamma rays…
…… can seem so different, yet they are all electromagnetic radiation.

All are composed of the same fundamental particle: the ‘photon’.

All photons, travel at the ‘speed of light’ (or the ‘speed of photons?’), have the properties of a wave, and interact with electrons.

Photons can be absorbed by an electron, and when this happens, the electron takes on additional energy, and with sufficient additional energy electrons move to a higher energy state. Electrons can then release energy and drop back to a lower energy state, emitting a new photon when they do.

This cycle of being absorbed by electrons, and emitted by electrons, is the main interaction between photons and other things. It is the basis of how we see, how heat is radiated, how radio signals are transmitted and received, and how microwave ovens work. There are countless photons everywhere, being absorbed, and being

Every ‘photon’ has carries a specific amount of energy, which determines the ‘frequency’ of that photon. The total extra energy delivered to an object by a stream of photons is the energy per photon multiplied by the number of photons. Any object with energy will also be radiating some energy out by emitting photons. So an object which is otherwise stable, will either gaining energy, which will most often indicated by an increase in heat, or lose energy, typically be getting cooler, depending on whether there is more energy in the photons being absorbed, or more energy in the photons being emitted.

In considering energy arriving from absorbed photons, a useful analogy to consider bullets being fired at a wall. You can deliver the same total force to the wall by either doubling the number of identical bullets, or doubling the mass for the same number of bullets. If the bullets are so small they just bounce of the surface of the wall, then increasing the number of bullets will still result in all the bullets just bouncing off, even though the total push against the wall has doubled. Similarly, while doubling the number of identical photons will increase the energy or heat delivered, if those photons do not do enough to the electrons to change the structure of the molecules, receiving more photons still will not change the structure. This is why the frequency of the photons is so important. It is not just the total energy that determines the impact, it is also the power of the individual photons.

Note that 1Mhz is 106 Hz, 1Ghz = 109 Hz, 100Ghz – 1011 Hz etc.

Generally, individual photons with an energy much higher than visible light are considered ‘ionising photons‘. While photons below this energy level can make us feel warm, photons above this energy level can damage our cells. We definitely know that higher energy UV, or X-Rays or Gamma rays can cause cancer. We aware of no side effects visible light photons at the level we experience on a sunny day, and generally it seems that this same number of photons, or less, at even lower frequencies should pose even less risk. However there is always the risk of something we do not know. In terms of risk, the higher the frequency the photons, the more care warranted in ensuring the quantity is not too high.

Economic Growth: The Holy Grail, Or Mythic Treasure?

Economic growth. The holy grail of ensuring a prosperous society. Or is it, that, in the 21st century, increasingly economic growth could mean as few as just the wealthiest 1% get richer, while all others get poorer?

Economic Growth:

  • Is Economic Growth The Holy Grail, Or Is Its Desirability A Myth?
  • Two sources of myth
    • GDP vs GDP per capita.
      • Why not use GDP per capita?
    • Uneven Wealth Distribution
      • Economic Growth for an Exclusive Group
  • Economic Indicators: What do they really measure?
    • Result: A Misleading Statistic
    • The True Goals of Economic indicators.
    • The GDP vs GDP Per Capita
  • Why Use Finance Industry Metrics for ‘Recession’ & ‘Prosperity’?
    • they have worked sometimes in the past
    • they are by the experts (even if wrong experts)
    • they ‘feel right’ for governments
  • Population Growth and Economic Growth
  • Conclusion: Let Them Eat Cake?
Continue reading “Economic Growth: The Holy Grail, Or Mythic Treasure?”

Wealth Inequality: Who wants More Inequality?

The Wikipedia article on Wealth inequality in the United States describes wealth inequality as a problem almost every would like to see reduced. Yet wealth inequality is increasing, not decreasing. What gives? Is humanity unable to address this problem? Or is will to address the problem not as universal at it might appear? Either consensus for action to decrease wealth inequality in not sufficient to stop the increase, or alternatively, there are forces actively working against this ‘consensus’, which means it is not actually a complete consensus. Are there dissenters working (and succeeding) to increase wealth inequality? This post is looks at the question: Who wants wealth inequality to increase?

Continue reading “Wealth Inequality: Who wants More Inequality?”

Free Education? Why not user pays?

The truth is there is no such thing as ‘free education’. There is always a cost so someone must pay, and the question is “who pays?”.  The choice is between ‘society pays’ (free?) and ‘user pays’. At first, the economic rationalist argument  “why should society pay for the university education of the elite?” appears compelling, but does it really work that way?

  • National Impact: Helicopter view
  • The impact on the individual
  • OK, who really pays?
  • Controlling studies: free market, vs university places
  • In depth, the fabric of the society we live in
  • Conclusion: The beneficiary pays

National Impact: Helicopter view.

“The individual should pay” because otherwise all society will be subsidising those will then have the highest incomes.  In other words, the individual paying will overall be more egalitarian.  But look at the countries where education is “free”.   This more in depth look at the debate in some of the main free education countries, free education is all about equality, and the countries offering free education include those that both value, and achieve, equality of citizens more than other countries.

So either these countries that both value and achieve equality so highly have it all wrong and only manage equality despite their free education systems, or the arguments for paid education representing equality are wrong.  So who has it wrong, those who best achieve equality, or those who have the worse record on equality?  If free education does deliver equality, why, and why would paid education fail?

The impact on the individual

The whole concept of paid education is that education is effectively an asset for the student.  The higher income earned from any asset, the better performing that asset, so the student should seek the asset which gives them personally the best return on their investment.  Each student should choose their degree based on which investment will provide them personally with best return.

The effect is to promote such studies as law and medical practice as opposed to subjects such as medical research or teaching.  Generally, careers which provide the greatest personal satisfaction, which can correlate to the public benefit that career provides, than areas where pay is the only motivator.  This means careers with a public benefit may have a higher study to income ratio, and therefore a lower economic yield as an asset.

Think of the idealised inspirational dreams of young children as in this video putting the case for ‘free’ education ( see 2:00) . End poverty, cure cancer, fix climate change.  All great aspirations, but none delivering the personal wealth required for a strong performing ‘university degree as a personal investment’.

But some noble aspirations do fit with the return on investment model.  Perhaps not merchant banking or even corporate law, but what about doctors?  Perhaps not creating the cures, but certainly administering the cures as a medical practitioner does provide for both: a real need within society and a strong return on investment?

Logically the laws of economics should ensure that the needs of society will be because the pay for needed careers will rise until there is supply.  So if a degree is expensive, then the market will ensure those with that degree earn sufficient to offset the cost. We need doctors, so doctors pay will be sufficient.  We don’t need a to eliminate poverty, fix climate change(at least not this week), or cure cancer.  In fact from an economic perspective, curing cancer could harm that section of the economy.  The problems thus should be restricted to the optional parts of the economy, or those things we need in the longer term.

So it is true not all aspirations are undermined by the user pays education system, as not all aspirations are long term, and surely in these shorter term aspirations and the things we need today, the system becomes more egalitarian?

Well… perhaps not…

OK, who really pays?

The case of a medical practitioner does sound like a strong argument for ‘paid education’ works for todays needs.  Society needs doctors, and paid degrees provides doctors because the pay for doctors increases until there is sufficient supply.  But this is also the problem, the cost of doctors rises to cover the cost of the degree.  If this is real, then doctors will receive highest pay in countries where degrees are most expensive, so doctors can in turn pay of the debt of their education. I did a search for the pay of doctors in the USA vs Scandinavia (where education is ‘free’). This comparison is actually the pay of doctors in a variety of countries, but the clear trend is the higher the cost of education, the greater cost of doctors.  Correlation is not necessarily causation, but the data does seem to confirm the prediction.

All this suggests that with paid education, the cost of doctors university degrees is in the end paid by those who visit doctors.  So ‘free’ education taxpayers pay, which puts the greatest burden on those who earn the most income, in place of the greatest burden of the cost falling to those who suffer ill health. The same rule will apply in each case, prices will flow through intermediaries until they ultimately reach the consumer.

Funding for medical degrees:

  • paid education: funding from those who suffer ill health
  • ‘free; education: funding from taxation revenue across all society according to tax rate

Generally the rules of economics ensuring the cost will ultimately be met by those with the need means the only reduction in society paying will apply only for services that are needed, but also have a strong export focus thus ensuring the cost is partially met from outside the tax base.

Controlling student expense: free market, vs university places

To my knowledge, there is no government in the world that completely eliminates spending on education.  At least some education is considered part of the function of government.  But at the other extreme, no government can be responsible for everything every citizen may have a whim to learn.  Paid education may suggest every citizen must full pay for all education, and ‘free’ education may sound like every student is indulged for whatever they desire, but neither extreme is correct.

‘Free’ education still will limit what courses are provided by state universities, for which citizens and non-citizens and for which courses, and countries with ‘free’ education will still also have fully paid education ranging from industry specific courses through to paid public education providers.

Paid education countries still subsidise courses and have state based universities, it is just that students still must pay.

Overall it is not automatic whether paid education countries spend more or less than free education countries.  Consider per capita spend on education between counties and there is little difference between free and paid education countries.


In depth, the fabric of the society we live in

Paid education ultimately forces a purely financial focus to education, and ultimately the choice of what people do in life.  Certainly a nail in the coffin of the sentiment “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.

Conclusion: The beneficiary pays

The answer to the difference is “the beneficiary of the education pays” in each case.  So do we want society to be the beneficiary of education, or each individual for themselves?  Do we want a society where people consider the overall society, or only themselves individually.


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