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The 21 cm line of hydrogen in Radio Astronomy

June 30, 2013 2 comments

 

This has been a wonderful discovery back in the 1950s that gave Radio Astronomy a good push forward. It also helped in mapping out our Milky Way galaxy (which we really can’t see very well!).File:Galaxy NGC 1232.jpg

It arose from a feature of quantum field theory, specifically from the hyperfine structure of hydrogen. (I’ll try to explain.)

You know that the hydrogen atom consists of a single proton at its central nucleus and a single electron moving around it somehow in certain specific quantized orbits. It cannot just circle around in any orbit.

That was one of Niels Bohr’s major contributions to our understanding of the atom. In fact this year we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of his model of the atom (his major papers written in 1913). Some articles in the June issue of Nature magazine are in honor of Bohr’s work.

Normally the electron circles in the lowest orbit associated with the lowest energy state – usually called the ground state (the one with n = 1).

It is known that protons and electrons are particles that have “spin”. (That’s why they are sometimes also called ‘fermions’.) It’s as if they behave like spinning tops. (The Earth and Milky Way are spinning too!)

The spin can be in one direction (say ‘up’) or in the other direction (we label as ‘down’). (These labels of where ‘up’ and ‘down’ are depends on the coordinates we choose, but let’s now worry about that.)

When scientists looked at the spectrum of hydrogen more closely they saw that even while the electron can be in the same ground state – and with definite smallest energy – it can have slightly different energies that are very very close to one another. That’s what is meant by “hyperfine structure” — meaning that the usual energy levels of hydrogen are basically correct except that there are ever so slight deviations from the normal energy levels.

It was discovered by means of quantum field theory that this difference in ground state energies arise when the electron and proton switch between spinning in the same direction to spinning in opposite directions (or vice versa).

When they spin in the same direction the hydrogen atom has slightly more energy than when they are spinning in opposite direction.

And the difference between them?

The difference in these energies corresponds to an electromagnetic wave corresponding to about 21 cm wavelength. And that falls in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

So when the hydrogen atom shows an emission or absorption spectrum in that wavelength level it means that the electron and proton have switched between having parallel spins to having opposite spins. When the switch happens you see an electromagnetic ray either emitted or absorbed.

It does not happen too often, but when you have a huge number of hydrogen atoms — as you would in hydrogen clouds in our galaxy — it will invariably happen and can be measured.

Now it’s a really nice thing that our galaxy contains several hydrogen clouds.  So by measuring the Doppler shift in the spectrum of hydrogen — at the 21 cm line! — you can measure the velocities of these clouds in relation to our location near the sun.

These velocity distributions are used together with other techniques to map out the hydrogen clouds in order to map out and locate the spiral arms they fall into.

That work (lots of hard work!) showed astronomers that our Milky Way does indeed have arms, just as we would see in some other galaxies, such as in the picture shown here of NGC 1232.

The one UNKNOWN about the structure of our Milky Way is that we don’t know whether it has 2 or 4 arms.

References:
[1] University Astronomy, by Pasachoff and Kutner. 
[2] Astronomy (The Evolving Universe), by Michael Zeilik.

(These are excellent sources, by the way.)

August Kekule’s Benzene Vision

June 30, 2013 6 comments

The first time I heard of August Kekule’s dream/vision was from my dear mother! (My mom is a geologist who obviously had to know a lot of chemistry.)  I am referring to Kekule’s vision while gazing at a fireplace which somehow prompted him onto the idea for the structure of the benzene molecule C6H6. And then I heard that the story is suspect maybe even a myth cooked up by unscientific minds. Now I have learned that Kekule himself recounted that story which was translated into English and published in the Journal of Chemical Education (Volume 35, No. 1, Jan. 1958, pp 21-23, translator: Theodor Benfey). Here is an excerpt from that paper relevant to the story where Kekule talks about his discovery.

I was sitting writing at my textbook but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background.    My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes.    As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, then perhaps we shall find the truth.

And to those who don’t think The truth will be given. They’ll have it without effort.

But let us beware of publishing our dreams till they have been tested by the making understanding.

Countless spores of the inner life fill the universe, but only in a few rare beings do they find the soil for their development; in them the idea, whose origin is known to no men, comes to life in creative action.  (J. Von Liebig)

I believe it is unnecessary to rule out or ridicule dreams, trances, visions in the pursuit of scientific truth. Because, after all, they still have to be tested and examined in our sober existence (as Kekule already alluded). I see them as extensions of thinking and contemplation, and surely there is nothing wrong with these.

Einstein on theory, logic, reality

 

https://i0.wp.com/www.soundswitheinstein.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/einstein-guitar.jpg

Long ago (late 1980s) I attended a lecture by Einstein biographer I. Bernard Cohen. (Cohen actually interviewed Einstein and published it in the Scientific American in the 1955 issue.)

 
In his lecture, Cohen described Einstein’s view of scientific discovery as a sort of ‘leap’ from experiences to theory. That theory is not logically deduced from experiences but that theory is “jumped at” — or “swooped” is the word Cohen used, I think — thru the imagination or intuition based on our experiences (which of course would/could include experiments). This reminds one of the known Einstein quote that “imagination is more important that knowledge.”

In his book Ideas and Opinions, Albert Einstein said:

“Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and end in it. Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics—indeed, of modern science altogether.”

(See Part V of his “Ideas and Opinions” in the section entitled “On the Method of Theoretical Physics.”)

In a related passage from the same section, Einstein noted:

“If, then, it is true that the axiomatic foundation of theoretical physics cannot be extracted from experience but must be freely invented, may we ever hope to find the right way? Furthermore, does this right way exist anywhere other than in our illusions? May we hope to be guided safely by experience at all, if there exist theories (such as classical mechanics) which to a large extent do justice to experience, without comprehending the matter in a deep way?

To these questions, I answer with complete confidence, that, in my opinion, the right way exists, and that we are capable of finding it. Our experience hitherto justifies us in trusting that nature is the realization of the simplest that is mathematically conceivable. I am convinced that purely mathematical construction enables us to find those concepts and those lawlike connections between them that provide the key to the understanding of natural phenomena. Useful mathematical concepts may well be suggested by experience, but in no way can they be derived from it. Experience naturally remains the sole criterion of the usefulness of a mathematical construction for physics. But the actual creative principle lies in mathematics. Thus, in a certain sense, I take it to be true that pure thought can grasp the real, as the ancients had dreamed.”

Note his reference to theory as being ‘freely invented’ (and even ‘illusion’) which echo the role of intuition and imagination in the scientific development of theory (but which are probably not completely divorced from experience either!).

The last two quotes above incidentally can be found online in Standford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Einstein’s Philosophy of Science

 

Understanding Israel

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Israel’s decision to make plans on the E-1 region (not yet building, however, just planning at this stage) after the United Nations General Assembly vote on the Palestinian nonmember observer state has been much criticized.  In this post, I express my opinion on the Israeli response by contextualizing the many growing dangers in the region to Israel so as to understand where it is coming from.

My theory is that, yes, Israel has made its E-1 response to the UN vote but that this was idea was at the back of their minds only to be used as the last nail on the coffin amidst a serious growing regional threat. (I am aware of the US position, from back in the 1980s I think, that Israel should not build in E-1.)

Let us enumerate all these dangers that Israel faces to better appreciate its position and response.

1) There is the Iran nuclear threat to wipe Israel off the map. This is probably Israel’s biggest security concern right now – which only serves to justify Israel’s hardening position.

2) There are the regular Hamas rockets and missiles fired at Israel. These have increased in range and danger — e.g., the Fajr-5 rockets supplied by Iran to Hamas in Gaza.

3) There is the Hizbullah threat in Lebanon with 1000s of rockets and missiles aimed at Israel – and which are more deadly and with longer reach. (They can now reach Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other Israeli population centers.) Notice: the UN has done nothing about these.

4) There is the Islamist threat in the region, and especially in Egypt. Egypt is lead by the Muslim Brotherhood whose primary foreign policy is to establish an Islamist Caliphate empire with Jerusalem as its capital. There’s a trend to scrap the Peace Treaty. So that Treaty is only hanging by a hair.

5) Syria is quite unstable with its 2-year civil war. The danger exists, and is more probable, for Islamists to take it over the way they have in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, etc.

6) Turkey is an Islamist state though somewhat more ‘moderate’ but still quite hostile to Israel — and pretty thin-skinned about the flotilla fiasco which was their fault for not restraining the IHH. They have been confrontational with Israel and sympathetic to Hamas’ firing rockets at Israel. Being a NATO state, that does not bode well for Turkey and is certainly a danger to Israel.

7) Jordan looks to be quiet so far, but it can be affected by these regional trends – 40% of its population are Palestinian. Jordan could be in the news at any moment.

8) Sudan is a major arms depot/route for Iran to transfer and supply weapons to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Islamists who want to infiltrate Israel from both Gaza and the Sinai. (Iran also supplies weapons to Hizbullah.)

You have all these dangers facing Israel and in addition you now have the Palestinians threatening Israel with the diplomatic vote at the United Nations.  All these threats put together from all around do a lot to undermine a two-state solution for a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side by side in peace. These can only harden Israel’s position.

As a matter of fact, Palestinian collusion with all these regional players who threaten Israel have contributed to making the two-state solution much less viable. (It may in fact be dead.)  What is Israel going to do? Support a hostile Palestinian state right on its border in addition to the already existing threatening Islamist states? Accede to a Palestinian state that looks to become an Islamist Palestinian state?  Not in your life. Look at Gaza! Is that the kind of Palestinian state they’re hoping for? (One that is inspired by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood?)  In any case, we have two Palestinian visions and there’s no way for Israel to make peace with both of them if those two Palestinian camps can’t live together in peace.

Therefore, the way to fight the UN Palestinian vote, and to fight these many regional dangers, is to threaten the contiguous geography for the Palestinians. So in sum: no Palestinian state so long as they collude with those who want to wipe Israel off the map, fire rockets at Israel, and threaten Israel diplomatically. Actions not aimed at contributing to peace will not lead to a Palestinian state. Israel will build where it wishes. That, in my view, is a much better response than bloodshed.

The UN can make all the laws it wishes, but so long as it makes these laws without regard to Israel’s security given the all-round dangers, these laws will be one-sided, naive, futile, and they will be opposed and fought. Israel’s laws will take precedence over laws cooked up by an antisemitic body (comprising many nations some of whom are already ruled by thugs).  It will also mean that the UN has yet again failed to be the institution that it was designed to for. After all, the UN already failed several times before; e.g., in Congo, in Darfur, Sudan, in Syria.

Children of older fathers

August 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Sometimes when you put separate studies together you could get what seems a confusing picture (or maybe no picture at all?) — particularly seeing how they word their conclusions. Here is an example on studies related to offspring of older fathers.

Study 1. Older fathers have longer telomeres in their chromosomes as they age, so the offspring of older fathers inherit these longer telomeres, enhancing the life expectancy of the offspring.  This was reported by the BBC and is based on a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study 2. Children born to older fathers have a greater likelihood of developing autism or schizophrenia.  Reported by Nature Magazine (here’s Nature’s summary of the actual Nature study) and also quite recently by the BBC.

Study 3. The life expectancy of people with schizophrenia is lower than average, and can be lower by as much as 10 to 15 years. Reported by the BBC and based on a study done by the British Biomedical Research Centre for mental health, and published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

 
These conclusions aren’t necessarily in contradiction to one another (even if verbally they seem to be). It depends on the various rates (such as the smaller fraction of schizophrenics, for example, compared with the many who don’t get mental illness). So if you’re normal and descended from an older father ‘the chances’ are better that your longevity will get a boost (statistically!) if you don’t get a mental illness like schizophrenia. (Barring a Study 4 and Study 5, about which I know nothing and which could wreck my post!)

I’ve often wondered if in some societies around the world these effects and results could be varied depending on the people being studied. There are still numerous factors beyond our control. (Anyway, whatever your condition, I hope this makes you feel better!) 🙂

Why I’m supporting Mitt Romney

August 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Here are my short & quick reasons for supporting Mitt Romney for US president.

1. Move to repeal Obamacare. Some businesses are already raising commodity prices because of it (e.g., one pizza chain) — and food prices are already on the rise outside of that.

2. Give the US economy a boost — a change in leadership helps give the economy a better turn. I’m with former mayor of Carmel, California, Mr Clint Eastwood who said we need a change in leadership and is endorsing Romney. I think he’s right. (And I won’t argue with the man with no name.)

3. Get the unemployment rate down, as it was under Bush. It went up when Obama became president.

4. Stronger and assertive foreign policy — not one that apologizes and bows to other leaders in shame. Many in Europe and Mideast are now taking a lesser view of Obama than in 2008 — his weakness loses the respect a president ought to have. Stand up to China and Russia more. The reset button gotten rusty and ain’t working. (Remember the reset button Hillary gave Putin?) Stand up to Iran more, and treat our friend Israel as a friend.

 

US Unemployment

August 7, 2012 Leave a comment

During 28 of the 38 months Obama has been in office (till ~ March 2012) the US unemployment rate was in the 9%-10% range. Under Bush most rates were in the 5%-6% range. Source: Bureau Labor Statistics.

US youth unemployment (ages 16-24) under Obama = 18.5% in 2009; 19.1% 2010; 18.1% 2011 – up from 14.0% in 2008.

California unemployment rate averaged to 11%-12% under Obama. Under Bush it averaged 6%.

Florida’s unemployment rate mostly in 10%-11% range under Obama. Under Bush they were mostly under 6%.

African American unemployment rates increased by 6+ points under Obama: 31-33% in 2009-2011 – up from 24.8% in 2008.

Some wonders of Natural History

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Some wonderful stuff I read about on Natural History magazine, I thought to share in my own simple ways. (Some don’t seem to have link references online, so I have cited them in red.)

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Recent research suggests that some groups of dinosaurs were already on the road to extinction before an asteroid impact — about 150 species of them.
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Did you know that the planet Uranus has its axis of rotation nearly parallel to its orbital plane? At one point it was pointing toward the sun! Secondly, its magnetic pole is some 60 degrees off its rotation axis! (Unlike earth where the magnetic north and rotation axis north are fairly close.)

The problem however is explaining the auroras near the magnetic poles of Uranus. It was believed that they could be explained by huge coronal mass ejections from the sun, but this seems in question. That’s an open question for anyone who wishes to research it.
Aurora Uranus, by Harvey Leifert, Natural History, May 2012, page 6.
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It may sound like a myth to read stories about people using pigeons to send messages in ancient times. But in fact pigeons have flight patterns that are based on their GPS sensing the earth’s magnetic field. There’s a part of the pigeon brain closely connected to their inner ears that interacts with the magnetic field, giving them this GPS ‘6th’ sense to navigate. Neuroscientists are still studying this interesting phenomenon.
“GPS: Global Pigeon System,” by Adam Hadhazy, Natural History, May 2012, page 8.
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The amazing ants are back! An ant leaves its colony and goes on an unknown journey. It gets infected with a fungus that is contagious. It returns to its colony. What do the ants in the colony do when it returns? Do they kill it? Ostracize it? Contain it? No. They welcome it back home and they come to its rescue, licking it clean of the infection; they share the infection; but because each gets a little of the infection they don’t get as affected as much and eventually get over it. All is well. They heal their friend and as a bonus they develop their immune system to make it stronger. No wonder I loved ants when I was a boy!! 🙂
“Ant-i-fungal,” by Judy Rice, Natural History, May 2012, page 8.

Islamophoooo

August 5, 2012 1 comment

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This is a short rebuttal to op-eds that wish to suggest that Americans (or Westerners in general) are suffering from a psychosomatic illness called “Islamophobia.” (The picture to the right is an image of what they have in mind; it’s one of my uncles by the way.)

First, they cannot explain why there would be concern or fear toward one radical form of one religion, while no such “phobia” is present toward nearly all the other religions in America (such as Judaism, Buddhaism, Hinduism, Bahais, and many others).

Secondly, they don’t consider the fact that in the Arab/Muslim world itself — in the Middle East! — there are many people (both secular-minded and religious) who have that same concern/fear that Americans/Westerners have toward radical Islam. For example, anyone who has been following developments in Egypt since Mubarak’s demise would know that many Egyptians (including Muslims!) are worried about and suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. So we’ll have to say that these Egyptian Muslims are “Islamophobic”!

Egypt is just one example, but that same concern/fear exists in Iran (against their Islamist regime), in Lebanon (against Hizbullah), in Jordan, Syria, Iraq (against alqaeda and other Islamist radicals who want to impose Sharia law), in Pakistan, in India, and certainly in Tunisia.

Comparison between UN resolutions: Israel and Turkey

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSfz0GdPOBLzJmRw0_icoWQoxTEqR9N_mYQ-KlBN5JhXlXbFyObWwAs I was browsing through some of these UN resolutions related to Israel and comparing them with those on Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus, I noted a distinct difference in tone in the way the two states are addressed and treated.

For example, in UN Security Council Resolution 497 — which is related to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria following the 1967 Six Day War — it derides Israel for imposing “its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights” and says that they are “null and void and without international legal effect.”  It demands that “Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision.”

In a UN General Assembly resolution on the Golan, it patronizes Israel with harsh language such as: “illegal settlements”; “Israel has failed”; “Israel law null and void and has no validity”; referring to Golan as “occupied by Israel”; “Demands once more that Israel withdraw”; etc.

By stark contrast, when you look at the resolutions regarding Turkey’s invasion and occupation of another legal state, Cyprus — and which is still ongoing since 1974 — you don’t read that kind of patronizing language.  For example, in UN Security Council resolution 367 (1975), it instead “calls upon all States to respect sovereignty … of the Republic of Cyprus” — with no mention of Turkey by name. In paragraph 2 of this resolution it says that it “Regrets unilateral decision” declaring a part of Cyprus would be a “Federated Turkish State” (by Turkey, which is again not mentioned explicitly).

Turkey is hardly criticized in its occupation of Cyprus compared with how Israel has been prejudicially treated by the United Nations.  In fact, Turkey is only mentioned once in Resolution 367, even obliquely – and with the generous verb: ‘regret’. You don’t see the kind of mean language used against Israel in the Turkey resolution on Cyprus.

Clearly, there is distinct discrimination (by the so-called “international law”) against Israel. Nothing new, of course, since that has been known for a long time, but it is interesting to see it where it may not be obvious to look.

Higgs particle seems to exist

 

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSLG3M0gZsrCfGEzxQkwVFIn2IDC4rfY2Tvn_I0rEQAuwAOg0BTVwIt looks like there will be a major announcement on Wednesday July 4th regarding the existence of the long postulated particle the Higgs boson of the Standard Model. Its existence had been conjectured in the mid 1960s. I’ve read several articles including some from prominent blogs maintained by top physicists in the area, and here is briefly what I gather from them:

1. The Higgs particle exists.

2. But some of its observed decay properties are at variance with those predicted by the Standard Model (the leading theory in Particle Physics) — and apparently significant. Particularly in the decay rates of the Higgs into two photons and into WW particles. The other decays seem to agree with theory.

3. The evidence for the Higgs particle is still indirect — in that they cannot see it directly, but they do see its ‘footprints’.

4. The evidence for its existence would appear to have risen to around a 4 sigma level of confidence (or maybe a little more?), which is about 99.99% certainty. In December 2011, the data back then allowed for a 3 sigma certainty, which is 99.7% confidence level. To be considered a discovery in Physics the criterion is to attain 5 sigma confidence — 99.9999%. (See the little table below for what these sigmas, or standard deviations, are.)

5. The Higgs mass is around 125 GeV. (Pretty heavy! About 133 times  the proton mass!)

6. Several independent experiments (at CERN and in the US) seem to be in general agreement.

So it looks like the Higgs exists but not quite exactly the one predicted. However, the experts will make the announcement on Wednesday. It is notable that they chose to announce on July 4th as well as having invited 5 key physicists, including Peter Higgs (shown in the photo here), to the event.

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What do these sigma’s mean?  Basically, statistical degrees of certainty. Briefly,
1 sigma = 67% certainty;
2 sigma = 95% certainty;
3 sigma = 99.7% certainty (considered good evidence but not a discovery);
4 sigma = 99.99% certainty
5 sigma = 99.9999% certainty (considered ‘certain’ or a discovery).

 

Categories: News, Physics, Science

Memorial Day

https://i0.wp.com/i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/tim/2012/05/28/MDay_AP120528026731_370x278.jpgIn Honor of all American men & women in uniform on this blessed Memorial Day. From those who fought in the Revolutionary War days that created the United States of America, to those who fought and are still fighting today, we owe them our lives and our freedom. Thank you and God bless them.

IAEA recent report: Iran enriched U-235 to 27%

The IAEA has just released its report on Iran’s nuclear program. (PDF file.)

On page 6 of this report it says:

“The results of analysis of environmental samples taken at FFEP on 15 February 2012 showed the presence of particles with enrichment levels of up to 27% U-235, which are higher than the level stated in the DIQ.”

(FFEP = Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant; DIQ = Design Information Questionnaire.)

The report also says that Iran installed 100s more centrifuges (in Production Hall A).

This has been happening even while the Ayatollah said it was a sin to develop a nuclear weapon and while they denied working for that goal.  If this does not stop, I expect a war soon.

Iran enriching uranium to over 20%

The IAEA has just recently reported that samples from their visit to Iran in February 2012 show that Iran has enriched uranium to more than 20% and may even be as high as 27%.  BBC reportJPost report.

Update: the second day meeting of the P5+1 and Iran failed to reach agreement on key issues, as expected. They’re planning a second meeting in Moscow in mid June. More play for time.

EU-Iran nuclear meeting goes for 2nd day

The description of the P5+1 meeting with Iran (Wed May 23 2012) on its nuclear program as “atmosphere was businesslike” is actually the diplomatic jargon used for a rather tense scene — seeing that discussions failed to yield agreement (contrary to Mr Amano’s premature optimism the day before that agreement was expected “quite soon”).

That’s why they’ve made an unscheduled 2nd day meeting on Thursday. Of course, in the meantime, between the last time they met, over a month ago, and now, Iran gained lots more time to install and spin its centrifuges and continue to enrich uranium further. The West now looks like the idiots who would be fooled twice, thrice, as many times as Iran dictates. Of course, Israel is the only nation that knows Iran better than the other (bleeding heart) wimps. Israel’s suspicions are in my view quite valid. This farce has been going on for 9 years and the West is still falling for it. Outrageous.

Obamacare’s constitutional issue

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Justice Kennedy of the US Supreme Court argued that Obamacare’s demand or requirement that individuals must purchase health insurance changes the relation between government and citizen in a “profound way.”  If so, then it means that Obamacare invoked a provision that is at the “constitutional” level but which is not constitutionally based. That is, to make that sort of provision possible, one would need a constitutional amendment. That is where the big contention lies.

Categories: News, Politics, United States

Netanyahu-Obama meeting

I’d rather be cautiously pessimistic about Bibi’s (Netanyahu) meeting with Obama. Although the Palestinian issue is dead and off the table this time around — as pointed out by today’s Jerusalem Post article — their priorities and timelines regarding Iran are quite different. First, Obama seems to be willing to wait until Iran enriches uranium to 90% before taking military action, while Bibi would hardly support waiting that long – the zone of immunity being much earlier than Iran’s reaching 90% enrichment. Secondly, Obama wants to wait for the sanctions to ‘work’ while Bibi and Ehud Barak are not convinced that it is affecting Iran’s nuclear progress. On both counts Bibi is quite correct — as the November 2011 and February 2012 IAEA reports showed. Obama has to understand where Bibi is coming from. My prayers to Bibi. G-d speed.

IAEA report on Iran nukes

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

The IAEA report (pdf, 11 pages) on their recent (Feb. 2012) failed trip to Iran has just been leaked. The news media have reported on its finding:

Guardian reportCNN reportBBC reportReuters reportJerusalem report.

For the record, here is the November 2011 IAEA report on Iran (pdf file, 25 pages), for comparison.

Errors in superluminal neutrino experiment

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Just as several physicists had suspected that something is wrong with the OPERA experiment (back in November 2011) that concluded that neutrinos have traveled faster than light, it now looks like their suspicions were correct.  Two major errors seem to have surfaced in the experiment at CERN — namely, two problems with the GPS synchronization system used and another problem that had to do with fiber optic cables used in transmitting the GPS signals.  This was reported by NATURE Magazine.  Einstein must be smiling in his grave.

The next issue to look forward to is whether the signals announced by CERN in December 2011 to be possible signs of the Higgs boson will in fact be confirmed to a 5 sigma level of certainty. (The data in December gave about a 3 sigma level of confidence.)  And how about supersymmetry (SUSY)? Still a no-show.

Categories: News, Physics, Science

Bombing Iran – response to Economist essay

February 24, 2012 3 comments

My response to some points in a recent Economist essay on Iran.  Some I agree with, except a few major ones — including the case that Iran’s nuke sites should not be bombed. The position of the author(s) of this article that Iran should not have nuclear weapons and at the same time taking off the table the threat of force, the author does not give a viable solution to the stand off. Indeed, that position is exactly what Iran has been banking on and investing on to reach its current advancement in its nuclear program — after 9 years of negotiations and diplomacy (since 2003). As you know, the IAEA has failed again and again to get Iran to cooperate (even in their second recent visit, where they were denied access to the Parchin military site). (Blue boldfaced comments are quotes from the Economist article which I wish to address.)

 
If Iran is intent on getting a bomb, an attack would delay but not stop it.

But an attack could deter it, and severely weaken its ability and delay it. That is a much better option than allowing Iran to be dangerous nuclear state akin to North Korea in the Middle East.

Indeed, using Western bombs as a tool to prevent nuclear proliferation risks making Iran only more determined to build a weapon—and more dangerous when it gets one.

And conversely, Israel & the US too would be even more determined to stop Iran (esp. if Obama loses the election and the US inaugurates a Republican president) – and Israel even more so determined because of Iran’s nuclear annihilation threat. As a matter of fact, the Palestinian issue would be ignored and further placed in the back burner seeing that now Israel has to invest more of its focus and resources to defending itself against an existential threat. Thus the Iran threat is worsening the Palestinian issue than it currently is, just as the Arab states before have managed to do.

The danger is keenly felt by Israel, surrounded by threats and especially vulnerable to a nuclear bomb because it is such a small land.

The vulnerability to Israel that you speak of here is exactly why Israel — if not the United States — has the greatest stake in dealing with Iran militarily to deter it from developing nukes (an action that you oppose). Also, it is hardly new for Israel to deal with several enemies at once, and I don’t have to give you a history lesson on that front.

It could retaliate, including with rocket attacks on Israel from its client groups in Lebanon and Gaza. Terror cells around the world might strike Jewish and American targets.

They have already been doing that and still are. So that is not new. Further, Hizbullah is more constrained nowadays from acting because of its gov’t position in Lebanon after it learned its lesson back in 2006. If they do react with rockets, Lebanon could descend into ashes and it has much more to lose. Nasrallah’s recent statement that they will make their own decision independently of Iran may be an indication that they will not retaliate. But if they do, then know to expect a much worse outcome than what occurred back in the 2006 war.

The article raises a number of ‘dooms-like’ scenarios as a means to weaken the argument for war — thereby honoring Iran with nuclear weapons. They are guesses at best, but what Israel will not hedge its bets on is allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon while threatening its very existence. There is no clearer logic than this. Those scenarios you paint should be placed right at Iran’s door step, not anyone else. Iran denies the Holocaust but aims to create the conditions for it. The author of the article is not faced with the imminent danger that his/her people/nation will be annihilated by Iran, so he/she can afford the academic position advocated by the article. But when you are a nation of people who suffered horrible deaths in a Holocaust just 70 years ago and you witness yet another such threat, you would soon learn that you can not afford academic exercises – and that you MUST act. Never again. And never will Israel allow Iran to achieve its dangerous ambitions. I pray that the US will regain its conscience and either take to the fight and/or join Israel to fight this good fight against this dangerous evil in the Middle East.

Anyway, short of Iran giving up its nukes completely, you can be sure that Israel (and/or the US) will attack Iran to save itself. This is a matter of paramount importance for any state: to protect its people and to protect its very existence. Iran made a huge mistake for threatening another powerful nation as it did, and it alone bears the responsibility for the consequences of its threats and actions.