Tag Archives: science

primordial process



No  things, no time,

Just Process

Process, Process.

Continual becoming,

Such pressure ongoing!

Creation from  whence

The Big Bang  came.

But it’s happening

All the time,

All the time.

But I am here with a vertex

A point of view

A perspective

Anything can happen

Tho’ common things

Happen frequently.

Everything is everywhere

All the time.

Just wait and observe.

By the Law of Least Action

At random apparently

The universe is built.

Common events occur commonly

And I can choose

As I am conscious

And have free will..

The builder?

The Everything

And Anything

The Source

Of love and power.

Is Everywhere.

So something is observed

By me

But I did not create it.

And spacetime begins.

It is always beginning

And always ending.


‘you can enter, there are no ghosts here’

higgsheraclitusHeraclitus said this to some young men who came to see him in his remote hermitage. He had acquired a reputation for being irascible and distant, really because nobody understood his ideas which were far ahead of their time.   A theory of constant change: A form of monism based on energy, and he often used as an example the energy of fire.  Of necessity he spoke in elliptic fashion using allegory, for example “You cannot step into the same river twice, for all is constant change!”  In a sense it was not until Spinoza that there was another philosopher expressing these ideas!

He only ever wrote his ideas down once, on a scroll deposited in the library in Ephesus which is now lost.  So we know of his doctrines from quotations and references in the writings of others.

These young men were charmed by him however as he patiently explained his philosophy the long day through; and they remembered that day for the rest of their lives.  What they experienced was far from the ideas they had of him when they approached his abode.   The only way people could rationalize Heraclitus’ independent thinking was that he had some kind of miraculous contact with the gods that were the basis of the Greek religion of the time.  His greeting was aimed at putting these fears to rest and welcoming them as fellow-enquirers and equals.  People rarely  visited him so fearsome was his reputation!   He had a child-like quality about him and had often played with the children in the  town square.  He had  great sympathy with the freshness of spirit of the children and their openness to new ideas.

In a real sense the approach used by Heraclitus is the same as that used by modern physics to explain how our universe works. The link between matter and energy and the development of the concept of spacetime having been postulated by Einstein at the beginning of the last century.  The developments in our understanding continue to the present day.  Most recently with the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson.  Modern science uses the same openness and patient enquiry based oh the evidence to hand that Heraclitus used.


flying machines!

albatross-wandering1Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype airplane attends his first flight over Payerne

Solar Impulse is a plane that uses the power from the sun to power its flight. It has flown round the world, in stages. It’s design is very similar to the albatross, above which can fly for weeks  over the oceans without landing.  Modern solar panels do not allow the capture of enough energy for a manned plane to stay aloft continuously- maybe in the future technology will allow this.  However it is already possible for unmanned planes to fly continuously and rumour has it that the military are already using these silent planes with infinite range as drones for permanent observation of for example suspected terrorists.


Near disaster for NZ 14 09 2013
Near disaster for NZ 14 09 2013


Another area where modern design has transformed what can be achieved is sailing.  Modern catamaran airfoil boats can reach speeds of over 50 mph and are an impressive sight as they race in the America’s Cup in San Francisco this summer.  Very different from the boats used even 20 years ago.  The photograph is of Defender in 1992  America’s Cup (Wikipedia).




voyager reaches deep space: a milestone for humanity


For forty years Voyagers 1 and 2 have been traveling the solar system, visiting the giant gaseous planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as originally planned. By using the force of gravity to accelerate the craft they  made the Grand Tour of the outer planets and eventually reached a speed allowing escape from the solar system which had not originally been planned.  Powered by its plutonium reactor,  which will continue to provide power for perhaps another 10 years,  Voyager 1 is now 12 billion miles from the earth travelling at 100 000 miles per hour and at this distance radio signals take 34 hours to make the round trip.  Since their launching these spacecraft have been battered by the solar wind;  a stream of charged particles emanating from the sun. These particles dominate space near to the sun, travelling along the lines of magnetic force. Up until now there has been no information on what happens away from the sun in the interstellar space of our galaxy. An important question which was posed at the beginning of modern astronomy and over which there has been much speculation.  Now for the very first time there are  data.


It is the interstellar environment which makes up the vast majority of our galaxy whether measured by volume or mass.  Instrument readings from the craft now show that the environment around Voyager 1 is no longer dominated by the sun.  It has passed the heliopause, as this boundary is termed by astronomers, and is travelling in the relatively calm environment of interstellar space, orbiting the centre of our galaxy as if it were a star.  So for the very first time mankind can examine directly the environment which makes up the majority of our galaxy.  Such measurements  have a direct bearing on basic questions such as the origins of galaxies and the universe.  These observations will help to explain the discrepancies in what galaxies look like and how they move which has been construed by some as evidence for Dark Energy and Dark Matter.

In a step equivalent, for its time, to landing on the moon, man has begun the saga of interstellar travel.





some parts of france carry many links to the past-beaumont de lomange


The huge old market hall at Beaumont de Lomange is going to have the cobblestone floor restored. The details of the project are posted publicly.






Pierre Fermat (1601/7 to 1665) was born here and there is a statue in the town square erected to his memory. It gives some detail of his life and mathematical work.  It is no understatement to say that he founded the development of modern mathematics  and statistics.  Though a lawyer and remaining an ‘amateur’ mathematician throughout his life, he corresponded with the major people active in the field at the time: PascalDescartes, Huygens and  Wallace among others.  Issac Newton said that with  the help of Fermat’s writings  he was able to develop the use of  calculus.  Fermat’s  last  theorem famously  found by chance by his son, pencilled in the margin of a page of  a copy of Diophantus   was not proved until 1994   by Sir Andrew Wiles  .  Fermat did not have space to write his proof apparently but he was always an intuitive worker and never bothered much about the niceties of mathematical proofs.  What would he have thought of the stone statue of him in the square, replacing the earlier bronze taken by the German army during the war to melt down for weapons?


The walls of the buildings around the square retaining the traces of past advertisements: Note that the usage of the buildings has not changed much with time.

sunset and saturn 14 august 2013


Thank you NASA

There have been some beautiful sunsets recently as the weather has been settled and clear here in France. A marvellous feature has been Saturn brilliant in the sunset if you know where to look.  After the sun has set it is no longer necessary to search to find Saturn, setting an hour or so after the sun. Its wonderfully beautiful ring system visible even with a small hand held camera.

This is the converse of the view of the Earth from Saturn taken from the Cassini probe a few weeks ago!

A photo from NASA’s archives followed by a series of four photographs of the sunset taken by me.  Saturn becomes increasingly visible as the light fades.  A fifth photo taken at full magnification by me allows the impression of the ring system to be seen.  Finally a picture taken by Anthony Wesley in March earlier this year shows the rings as they are now as viewed from Earth.  Remember the rings of Saturn change position relative to the Earth as the planets orbit the Sun.


Carl Sagan and the Human Presence on Earth

What a magnficent contribution to our understanding of ourselves and our part in the Universe Carl Sagan made. Transformational!

june 23 2013: largest full moon for 18 years

As the moon circles the earth in an ellipse the distance between them varies, at the nearest (perigree)  it is 363,300 km and at the furthest (apogee) 405 355 km .

The size of the moon as seen from the earth will vary depending on the distance between them.  The position of the moon in its orbit round the earth when it is full will determine its size.  The nearer the apogee the smaller it will appear to be, the nearer the perigee the bigger it will appear.

The changing position of the full moon can be plotted as a graph:

images (7)







A lot is known about the moon and it is the only heavenly body to have been visited by humans.This is a site providing up to the minute information about the moon.

Most of this knowledge has been gathered recently. Here is an entry in Arthur Mee‘s Children’s Encyclopedia written in 1930:











science and magic

One could say that science describes what we understand and magic what we do not. The inexplicable always fascinates; like children at a party asking the conjuror to repeat the trick.
Since 95% of the universe is dark energy or dark matter, which we do not understand, there is still plenty of magic. It was Isaac Newton who said ‘the bigger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of uncertainty.’
Pressure to conformity; valuing difference,

Often what is specialist knowledge may seem like magic to the uninitiated. Most people do not understand quantum physics because it needs an understanding of advanced mathematics. The very language we use implies secrecy and sects, though this may not be by intention. However the simple fact is that specialist knowledge, whether of shamanism or nuclear physics, leads to exclusivity. Indeed in a sense it is not specialist knowledge, but specialist experience that differentiates the exceptional individual from the crowd. We are not all the same and some differences lead to an individual having a different view of the world. For example autistic children are different, experience the world differently and some are very talented and creative. It has been proposed that Newton had Aspergers syndrome. His development of the concept of ‘gravity’ a universal force acting at a distance, which was accepted as real, though unexplained and so in essence ‘magical’.

Einstein took the understanding further developing the concept of ‘spacetime’. Interestingly, since nothing can travel faster than light this automatically gives each individual a unique viewpoint on the universe and gives the sensation (illusion?) of time.

Difference is always liable to give rise to suspicion and fear and it was only recently that people were being burnt at the stake for their religious convictions or because they were considered to be witches. Clearly there was a disincentive to anyone talking about having spiritual experiences!


Our society needs exceptional individuals whether explorers, scientists engineers or philosophers. Until recently there was dependence on shamans for making rain, now science has taken over this role- to an extent.

We need to be able to think the unthinkable (in a safe environment, a University ) if we are to develop an increasing understanding of the universe and the way it works. Science allows this, a well defined situation is explored and reproducible results obtained. It is an approach which has proved to be successful. Yet it has limitations.

One-off unique events can be observed but not repeated.

Subjective experience cannot be objectively studied, though modern imaging technology of the brain in action is getting close.

There is still room for the magic of the individual and spirituality. Indeed some feel that individual experience is ultimately all there is.