Bric-A-Brac

  • Site Outage Reminder: our web host provider is taking our site offline for a four-hour outage, sometime Sunday evening or the early hours of Monday morning.
  • Gasoline Taxes: according to the American Petroleum Institute, Californians pay the highest gasoline tax per gallon of any state in the nation, above even Hawaii and New York. In cents per gallon (selected states):  CA- 48.6, HI-45.1, ME-31.0, MA-23.5, AZ-19.0, MO-17.3, WYO-14.0.
  • Due Diligence: There’s a reason why professional pollsters don’t hire drunks in internet chat rooms to conduct their polls. The next time you receive an e-mail poll, petition or “statement”, you can certainly chuck it into the junk mail or trash. But what if you think you approve? Unless you make a habit of doing everything others tell you to do, don’t just “SEND THIS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW”. Research it yourself. Are the claims true? To debunk urban myths,  www.snopes.com is a good place to start. Don’t embarrass yourself by unwittingly forwarding internet trash mail!
  • Dark matter: Yep, astrophysicists think the Hubble Space Telescope has photographed it, and they think they know what it may be. You’ve seen photos of those squiggly lines in “bubble chambers” – the impact area of high energy particle colliders, cyclotrons and atom-smashers? This high-energy shower of subatomic sparks doesn’t just evaporate. Accumulated over the 13.7 billion year lifespan of our universe, from all of the collisions and supernovas that ever existed, we may have found the “smoking gun” responsible for an expanding universe.

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Astronomy – Fearless Observer

We posted a somewhat whimsical article in our Astronomy department. We call it “Naked Eye Observing – the Known Universe from Castro Valley”.

Most of us never get into that world apart, of fussy precision telescopes and highly specialized observing equipment. That marks the diehard amateur astronomer. But almost everybody has enjoyed just gazing at the canopy of stars and planets up there on clear nights. Astronomers call this primitive practice, the observation of the heavens without optical/mechanical aids, “naked eye observing”. No matter which category you find yourself in, you might enjoy this article.

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Big Bang – too fast, Part I

Now, from the pages of the February 2004 Scientific American: according to the latest Big Bang models from the physicists and astronomers, the universe as we know it started expanding from a mathematical point source, some 13.7 billion years ago.

There were photons and electrons and protons floating around in the plasma, a kind of hot cosmic soup. But the plasma was at first too hot for the electrons and protons to combine into the gas hydrogen, the simplest atom. No hydrogen. No gas clouds. No stars or starlight. Just a glowing soup.

According to the model, the newborn universe was expanding at the speed of light. So, after 380,000 years, if an observer in the center could have seen it (and there were anything to see), the visible horizon of the universe would be a sphere 380,000 light years in diameter.

According to the same model, the newborn universe was already much larger than that visible horizon. If nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, how did that matter get there?

A conundrum. Something must be wrong with the model.

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