Cosmologists in Search of Dark Ghosts

first_imgDark matter and dark energy: do they exist?  Cosmologists and physicists are spending large amounts of money building huge and expensive detectors to find them, but so far have found nothing.  This raises profound questions about the limits of science, the interaction of observation with theory, the presuppositions behind scientific models, and the sociology of the scientific community.  The universe, clearly, owes no obligation to scientific models; it is what it is.  If scientists were to pursue a false path in their search for understanding, how long could they be wrong?  For a thousand years?    Two articles in Nature explored the search for dark stuff.  Jenny Hogan wrote about the search for dark matter,1 and Geoff Brumfiel wrote about the search for dark energy.2  In short, the dark matter search seems more promising than the dark energy search.  “Jenny Hogan reports that attempts to identify the mysterious dark matter are on the verge of success,” The heading before the two articles reads.  “In the second, Geoff Brumfiel asks why dark energy, hailed as a breakthrough when discovered a decade ago, is proving more frustrating than ever to the scientists who study it.”    Yet even Hogan’s dark-matter article contains some disturbing revelations.  After describing large tanks of xenon and argon deep in European and American tunnels that hope to feel the bumps of passing dark matter particles, and the race to be the first scientist to detect them, she admitted, “Despite the enthusiasm, there is still a chance that nature will refuse to cooperate, and the experiments will chase ever better limits but never detect a particle.”  Some of the feverish activity behind the search has the feel of a snipe hunt or ghostbusters escapade. No one knows what dark matter is, but they know what it’s not.  It’s not part of the ’standard model’ of physics that weaves together everything that is known about ordinary matter and its interactions.  The standard model has been hugely successful, but it also has some problems, and in trying to fix these, theorists have predicted hordes of new fundamental particles.  At first, these hypothetical particles were viewed as unwelcome additions, but now some of them are leading candidates for dark matter.  “These days a theory without a dark-matter candidate is not considered an interesting one,” says [Leszek] Roszkowski [CERN].  “The existence of the dark-matter problem is perhaps the most convincing evidence for physics beyond the standard model.”Could it be that the community of physicists has jumped on a fast-moving bandwagon going nowhere?  They give names to theoretical entities: neutralinos, gravitinos, axions, and other things with exotic names, which might not even exist.  The scientists talk about weakly-interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, and tell us that 10 billion of them pass through every square meter of the Earth every second – yet no instrument, no matter how sensitive, has ever detected one.  Even the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, going into operation next year, will not be able to detect their presence with certainty: “Because such evidence is indirect, finding a WIMP signature at the LHC would not confirm it to be dark matter,” Hogan acknowledged.    Why, then, do theoretical physicists and cosmologists believe they exist?  Part of the reason comes from observations dating from the 1930s that galaxy clusters seem too loosely bound gravitationally to keep from flying apart over billions of years.  The belief also stems from physical theories about the nature of gravity and fundamental particles.  Having elegant models and expensive instrumentation, however, cannot legitimize a belief that fails observational confirmation.  But even if observations find a ghostly particle, don’t expect that there is only one kind of ghost.  Hogan ended with this escape clause for the theorists:Dark matter might prove to be a richer problem than anyone is expecting.  [Max] Tegmark [MIT] hopes for this outcome.  “This could be a wonderful surprise.  It’s very arrogant of us humans to say that just because we can’t see it, there’s only one kind of dark matter.”Critics might see this as job security for people with vivid imaginations.  And that was the good news.  Searchers for dark energy have even bigger problems.    Geoff Brumfiel’s article contains a strange mix of observation and theory.  It is commonly reported that the universe is flying apart faster than cosmologists expected from the normal expansion of the universe – but that presupposes acceptance of inflationary big-bang cosmology.  Inflation was invented to solve the flatness problem.  Our universe is finely balanced between its density and expansion rate.  Explaining this degree of fine tuning naturally has been a challenge for cosmologists for decades.  Inflation seemed to solve it by positing a rapid, exponential expansion in the early stages of the big bang.  Brumfiel wrote, “the expansion provided a way out of a theoretical impasse.  Observations of the Big Bang’s afterglow made by various groups, including Bennett’s, indicated that the Universe’s gravity had flattened it out.”    As happens so often in science, a solution breeds new problems.  There didn’t seem to be enough matter to have this effect on space-time.  Enter dark energy: “it turned out that the amount of energy needed to drive the acceleration was pretty close to that needed to solve the flatness problem by means of its gravity,” he wrote.  This created initial excitement in 1998 when evidence for an accelerating universe was announced.  Dark energy, he said, seemed “poised to provide great insight into the origin and future of the cosmos.”  Those hopes have been replaced by bigger problems:But a decade further on, researchers seem to have swapped one theoretical conundrum for a bigger one.  Follow-up measurements have revealed little about the nature of dark energy, and theories to explain it have failed to gain traction.  And although astronomers are trudging forwards with a battery of new measurements, there is little guarantee that any will solve the problem – and thus no clear consensus on how much effort to put into them.  “The issue is: how much information do we get from these future observations?” asks Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist at Harvard University.The fine-tuning of the expansion has caused some, like Leonard Susskind (Stanford), to propose a nearly infinite “multiverse” in which our universe’s vacuum energy is just right to allow for stars and planets and life (see 12/18/2005, 01/04/2006, 08/11/2006).  While others dislike the anthropic implications of this view, nothing better has been proposed that does not create more problems than it purports to solve:This sort of anthropic argument irks many scientists.  Critics say such reasoning is almost impossible to verify and doesn’t provide any deeper insight into the cosmos.  “Anthropics and randomness don’t explain anything,” says Paul Steinhardt, a theorist at Princeton University in New Jersey.  “I’m disappointed with what most theorists are willing to accept.”    The trouble is that no other approaches are proving any more fruitful.  Some suggest that the problem lies with Einstein’s idea of gravity, which they then seek to modify in a way that fits in with dark energy.  “It would be very fortunate if the dark energy were a modification of gravity,” says Georgi Dvali of New York University, “because it would address fundamental questions of physics.“ But others see little mileage in such changes.  Leaving aside the cosmos, “it’s not so easy to get those theories to be consistent with our Solar System”, says [Michael] Turner [U of Chicago]…..    In general, the theoretical side of the debate is not a pretty thing.  “We’ve tried a whole bunch of things and nothing has sprung forward,” says Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.So how far can a cosmologist go before admitting defeat?  As far as he wants.  Secular cosmologists never want to give up and just say that “things are as they are because they were as they were,” as Thomas Gold once joked.  The search for ultimate answers is part of the game.  So the observationalists will continue to build huge detectors, trying to sharpen measurements that might nail down the ‘equation of state’ of the universe to finer degrees of precision, while the theoreticians, arguing that observations can only describe but not explain, will continue to theorize exotic particles.  When the particle zoo gets too cumbersome again, a new, more fundamental theory will be erected with smaller, more abstruse building blocks.    No matter how frustrating or hopeless, no matter how far off course, the show must go on: this is the game of secular science.  Being right is no fun.  Exasperation is the angst that propels the game onward, right or wrong.  Here is how Brumfiel ended his article:For now, many in the field are left with a sense of unease: the tantalizing clue they thought they had discovered has turned into an exasperating mystery.  And with no clear explanation of something that could be up to three-quarters of everything out there, it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing a big part of the picture, Susskind says.  “We could be wrong about cosmology for the next thousand years. Deeply wrong.”1Jenny Hogan, “Unseen Universe: Welcome to the dark side,” Nature 448, 240-245 (19 July 2007) | doi:10.1038/448240.2Geoff Brumfiel, “Unseen Universe: A constant problem,” Nature 448, 245-248 (19 July 2007) | doi:10.1038/448245a.They can’t even figure out our nearest star (the sun) and they want to tell us about the ultimate origins and fate of the universe – and even of multiple universes that would be beyond observation even if they existed.  What unconscionable arrogance.    You know what the whole problem is?  These people refuse, by choice (not because of the evidence), to acknowledge God in their thinking.  Searching for answers is a noble undertaking, but if you throw away the key before you start, no one should feel sorry for you when you get lost.    The secular cosmology community will not acknowledge the Creator despite being dragged kicking and screaming to the anthropic principle (08/11/2006, 05/11/2006).  They are determined to work out solutions to the universe by themselves, without recourse to the key to the problem.  They have made this choice a priori, before even looking through a telescope or at the output of a particle accelerator.  Materialism is so engrained, it has become an addiction.  The pain of withdrawal now is unthinkable.  A thousand years of being deeply wrong is preferable to kicking the habit.  This is your tax dollars at work: keeping an elite community hooked on a fruitless addiction. You can almost hear the irate comeback: “Well, what would you do?  Dismantle all this equipment and just say God did it?”  Of course not.  First of all, though, it should be clear that open-ended searches for ghosts is not good scientific practice, nor is spending a thousand years being deeply wrong.  Hopefully we can also agree that the public cannot be expected to pay for any and all quixotic pursuits scientists dream up.    The LHC and other megascience projects employ many thousands of people, and require many bright, highly-trained PhDs to design and operate.  This alone, however, is not a justification.  One could just as well imagine building parallel-universe detectors – or fairy detectors.  Would job security for thousands justify such expenditures?  How about a megaproject to dig a big hole, then fill it in again?  We must think rightly about the uses of technology and the expected payback to the people who pay for it.  There has to be some relationship between the investment and the expectation of success.    There is value in pure research.  A Murphyism states, “When you are investigating the unknown, you do not know what you will find.”  Perhaps some useful fact will come out of dark-matter detectors that will improve our lives.  If the goal is only to keep scientists busy, though, or to rationalize a materialistic philosophy, then the proponents should engage their hobbies on their own time and dime.    So what do we do with the LHC and the dark-matter detectors, the WMAPs and other such projects?  We change the presuppositions.  We start with the presupposition that there is a Creator who has revealed Himself in His creation.  This is the presupposition that motivated the great founders of science.  Our efforts, then, are directed once again at “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” to understand how He ordered the world and the universe and life.  And, as Francis Bacon admonished, we gear our efforts for the betterment of mankind.  These two goals can justify large expenditures on elaborate projects.  This is a far cry from today’s elitist mindset that misuses science to eliminate all thoughts of God and thinks the public should give scientists anything they want just because they are curious about the latest unverifiable, materialist fad.How ironic that the secularists should end up in quixotic pursuits after imaginary entities.  Their refusal to admit in their thinking a Holy Ghost who hovered over the surface of the waters at Creation did not free them from the need for ghosts.  They had to invent their own so that they could search endlessly for them.  What else can a soul do to alleviate the pain of denying its own existence?(Visited 23 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Notes on fall fertilization: P and K

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois Department of Crop SciencesWith harvest almost complete after another year with high to very high yields, it’s time to review some basics of fall fertilization. Neither fertilizer nor grain prices are historically high, so there’s reason to be aware of costs while making sure to cover the nutrient basics.P and KFall application of the dry fertilizer materials typically used to supply P and K to the next year’s (or next two years’) crops is normal practice, although there has been some moving of P and K applications to the spring. That’s not a problem with timing—even though P and K are relatively immobile in the soil, applying them as surface broadcast well in advance of crop emergence tends to work well. But fall soil conditions are often better for driving application equipment over fields, and many producers don’t want to add fertilizer application to the list of spring tasks. Most P and K fertilizers are broadcast, but some now apply these materials as bands placed into the soil, in some cases beneath where rows will be planted. Research has shown limited if any yield response to banding P and K compared to broadcasting, especially on productive soils with adequate P and K test levels already present. An advantage to placing P into the soil is that it is less prone to running off with rainfall. But this requires special equipment, and application of dry fertilizer in bands is substantially slower and more costly than broadcast application.While most P and K fertilizer is applied to soybean stubble in preparation for corn the next year and then soybean the year after that, we have seen some claims recently that soybean “needs its own P and K” and that it shouldn’t have to “settle” for the P and K “left over” from the corn crop. In all but very low-testing soils, where crop roots can have trouble reaching enough P and K as they grow into the soil, research has failed to show a benefit to annual applications of P and K, at least in soils such as those in Illinois. We know for certain that it costs more to apply nutrients every year than only once in two years. There have also been claims that soils tie up P and K over time after they are applied, such that “freshly-applied” nutrients are more available to plants. But applying amounts of P and K that crops remove tends to keep soil test levels fairly constant, suggesting that any tieup of P and K is not a permanent “loss” of these nutrients; as long as soil test levels are adequate, both crops get enough even if their roots don’t encounter fertilizer granules as they grow.A sound approach to determining rates for P and K is to add up the amount removed over the last two years (assuming a biennial application) and to apply that amount in preparation for the next two years. A year ago in a Bulletin article I reported the results from a recent NREC-funded grain nutrient sampling project in Illinois. We set grain removal levels as the values below which 75% of samples fell, so a little higher than the average amounts of nutrients we found in the grain samples. In some 2,100 grain samples of both corn and soybeans, we found removal levels of 0.37 lb. P2O5 and 0.24 lb. K2O per bushel of corn grain, and 0.75 lb. P2O5 and 1.17 lb. K2O per bushel of soybean grain. These are 10 to 15% lower than previous “book values” used in Illinois and many other states, and are in line with levels reported by Iowa State University scientists.Even with slightly lower P and K removal levels than we have used in the past, high yields mean removal of a lot of nutrients from fields. In a field that produced 240 bushels of corn in 2017 and 75 bushels of soybean in 2018, we calculate that harvested grain over the last two years removed 0.37 x 240 + 0.75 x 75 = 145 pounds P2O5 and 0.28 x 240 + 1.17 x 75 = 155 pounds K2O per acre. At current estimated retail prices of $520 per ton for DAP and $370 per ton for potash, the fertilizer to replace these amounts would cost about $123 per acre, not including the application cost.The still-sometimes-used “200-200” application (200 pounds DAP, or 92 pounds P2O5 and 200 pounds potash, or 120 pounds K2O) every other year was enough to keep soil test levels moving up when using such rates first became common. That’s because yield levels were much lower than in recent years; Illinois corn and soybean yields from 1961 through 1979 averaged 96 and 31 bushels per acre, respectively. Having applied rates exceed removal for decades in many fields is why soil test levels are as high as they are in such fields today. But using that amount of fertilizer at today’s yield levels will mean a steady drop in soil test values as more nutrients are removed than are replaced.Low crop prices often have some people wondering if they might cut back some on P and K in order to save money, presumably until crop prices are higher (or fertilizer prices are lower) in a year or two. Despite imaginative claims of “hidden hunger” and some overwrought interpretations of tissue testing levels, P and K deficiency symptoms are very rare in Illinois; we tend to see such symptoms mainly when soils dry out after planting and roots have trouble growing into soils enough to take up adequate P and K, even when soil test levels are high. Such symptoms are more common in compacted soils and in no-till fields, but we hardly ever see such symptoms when spring rainfall is normal.With adequate soil test levels of P and K in most fields and with crops that are good at extracting these nutrients, delaying the application of some or even all of the P or K for a year or even two years is likely to have little or no effect on the yield of the next crop(s). Still, nutrients removed by the most recent crops do need to be replaced, if not before the next crop or two then after that; higher soil test levels now provide more leeway. The real risk comes from allowing removal to exceed replacement over years, to the point where even good root systems can’t take up enough nutrients, and yields suffer. Reaching that point in most Illinois fields would take more than a year or two, but Illinois soils cannot generate enough P and K to meet the needs of high-yielding crops, so getting to that point is inevitable if the neglect continues. We can “kick the can (of nutrient replacement) down the road” for now, but that will mean having to replace ever-growing amounts of nutrients later, as grain, along with its nutrients, continues to come off the field every year.last_img read more

The Last Word On Cold Calling Versus Social Media

first_img Get the Free eBook! Want to master cold calling? Download my free eBook! Many would have you believe that cold calling is dead, but the successful have no fear of the phone; they use it to outproduce their competitors. Download Now I believe in social selling. I believe that the tool kit that is social media has made the world much smaller, has given us an easier way to learn about our clients, and has provided a much easier way to both connect and nurture relationships.I have won major accounts with relationships that were begun on social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and this blog. Social media and inbound marketing are helpful and sometimes effective tools.But it is criminal negligence to suggest to salespeople that they no longer need to make cold calls (or pick up the telephone).It’s easy to recommend that salespeople not pick up the phone when you don’t carry a bag. It’s easy to tell salespeople not to make cold calls when you don’t have a quota. It’s easy to tell salespople that the old ways of selling have died when your business model allows you to acquire clients more easily through social media and your blog.If what you sell is designed to help salespeople better use social, it’s easy to sell the idea that they will no longer have to make their calls. But it is criminal negligence. You’re hurting people.Would you take your own advice if you were that salesperson or their manager. Would you abandon the phone if your family was counting on you to support them? Would you stick with social media alone if you didn’t have a blog–or were forbidden to keep one? If you were a sales manager, would you stake your job on a prospecting plan that included social selling and inbound alone when opportunity creation is one of the biggest challenges any sales organization faces?If the only way you can sell something is by convincing people that they can have the results they need without having to do what is necessary, you aren’t helping people. You’re selling snake oil. An honest approach would be to tell salespeople the truth, namely that they need to be able to use all prospecting methods available, including social selling. Not to use social media to prospect would also be criminal negligence.last_img read more