Wednesday, February 22, 2012

wondering more about the risk H2S might kill us all

A variety of sources (See "SOURCES" below) have led me to think a bit more about three questions:

1. What do we know about the risk that ocean stratification will lead to a huge buildup of H2S poison
deep in the oceans of the earth, enough to kill us all?

2. What do we know about the risk that such poison, once formed, will be released to the surface,
actually killing us (perhaps first by radiation, as it affects the ozone layer, but inexorably pressing further)?

3. What do we really know about the risks from the Black Sea, which is already stratified, and where the "chemocline" --
the barrier between the poisoned water and the surface -- has risen from about 200 meter depth to less than 100 meters in
recent time?

There is a HUGE amount of uncertainty here, and gross ignorance about what is going on, in every source I have found.
I don't claim to know the answers, but someone really needs to follow up somehow.

I am NOT speaking for NSF on this. In fact, I wonder what different people in our geosciences directorate would say about this; however,
they were the ones who invited me to a presentation by Peter Ward a couple of years ago, and urged us to pay attention. I disagree with many of things that Ward says, based on sheer logic and independent thinking, but it seems very clear that he is right that there has been a huge disconnect between
folks like him studying the history of the earth before about 2-3 million years ago (Rod tells me that the formation of Panama was the key dividing time)
and folks studying "thermohaline" currents in the modern ocean:

The more I look at this, the less reason I see for complacency. (Though to be honest, I also see more reason to think about
issues like afterlife, which is beyond the scope of these lists. Santorum seems to be saying it is antiChristian and
antiBiblical to be worried about fire and brimstone, but I personally disagree... but again, this is not the place to elaborate.)

One reason I worry is that shifts in things like water currents have certain analogies to shifts in things like electrical currents, which
I tend to take for granted in my own thinking. Things can change quite abruptly when someone throws a switch.
Our society is particularly incompetent when it comes to threats which become tangible and direct very quickly. Whatever we may say about global warming, it is a RELATIVELY gradual process. But current can change quite quickly. And, in the Black Sea, the rise
of the chemocline to the surface would be a very discrete event... "discrete" as in abrupt, not as in diplomatic.
(It would not surprise me if the first big news would be a sudden death of Russian Navy people among others. They
have had small outbreaks and deaths due to occasional upwelling already, but if the chemocline reaches the surface,
it will be worse. I have no idea how MUCH worse, but much worse.)

Another reason I worry... is... though I am not an expert in ocean currents, I can read. I know that the direction of differences
in water temperature and salt content drive which way the currents flow. From Ward, I know that if they change directions
(to what they were for most of the history of the earth), we pass step one -- we get stratified oceans and poison.
The Arctic is clearly warming, and the gradients are changing. Will we know where the switching point is, before it is too late?

Currents can change quickly as certain thresholds are reached....

But how does this relate to the "good news" that we might be seeing cooling in Europe rather than warming, due to changes in the Gulf Stream?

A few years ago, the Economist had a cover story something like "Will England freeze over?" due to preliminary measurements
from the few bouys collecting relevant data, suggesting that the warming currents of the Gulf Stream (crucial to the climate of all of northern Europe
and even northeast US) had suddenly started to slow down. New bouys were installed, and the debunkers worked overtime... and I haven't heard much about that issue lately... but it is not off the table.

If you look to the wiki URL above...

it seems clear that the warm Gulf Stream current brings warmth to northeast US and Europe AT THE SURFACE (the red lines).
Because we are not increasing the height of the ocean in the north (???), there is an exactly counterbalancing DEEP current
(the blue lines) carrying cool oxygenated water to the south. That is exactly the kind of NEW circulation pattern which Ward discusses --
in emphasizing how different it is from most of earth's history.

So of course, there is a direct link between the "cooling" news of a reduced northern surface Gulf stream, and a reduction
in the corresponding deep current which keeps the North Atlantic oxygenated and prevents the stratification which was most of
the earth's history. The bottom line which could poison us is the stratification, and it's not clear how far away it is. Maybe quite far...
but maybe closer than we think.

On the reassuring side, what of the possibility that the poison will just stay locked up in deep water, and the memory that the warming current
has weakened before?

In fact, the major intellectual novelty in Ward's book (beyond the Penn State work he cites, and the nice popularization) is his
discussion of question 2 -- what triggers the actual release of H2S from deep ocean to above? He proposes a very rapid rise
on the chemocline (such as we may be seeing right now in the Black Sea), somehow caused by the rate of increase of CO2.
On that I disagree. (See sources below). More precisely... it is caused by the degree of anoxia, which in turn
CAN be caused by many possible combinations of factors. In our times, it seems that simple agfricultural runoff, essentially unavoidable
with today's world population, may well be enough...

But must run.

The best primary starting point is Ward's book Under a Green Sky, $7 in paperback from amazon.

Having read a bit beyond that, I have my own views, initially stated in:

I also have a condensed "cliff notes" summary of the relevant technical content of the book:

========== ADDED LATER:

The chemocline of the Black Sea has risen from 200 meters to less than 100. One book on the Black Sea describes it as the greatest reservoir of poison
on the earth, with H2S "filling 90% of the water," from its 2000 meter depth to 200 meters. But recent data has shown much less depth
of the chemocline.

I have done some web search on the Black Sea situation, but it was not really reassuring. There is a big international project
addressing the health of the Black Sea. It has an extensive web page on how wonderful they are,
how many happy diplomats worked really hard, and mow much money they spent on many, many things. But ...
on a reasonable search ... I didn't find anything really relevant to the key uncertainties I have. After they spent all that money, I do hope
someone knows, but they sure weren't advertizing it. I couldn't find a simple time-series on the depth of the chemocline
by region of the Sea, or in total... but common sense says it ought to exist somewhere, if they are spending all that money.
I also tried google scholar search, of course.

There have been a few minor scandals over the past decade or two, but it is sad how such things sometimes just create antibodies
which make people LESS aware of the larger future dangers. (Hey, oil dependency in the US provides some other scary examples
of such psychology.)

I saw a statement by the President of Rumania, who sounded really worried... but, as in Ukraine, I saw stringent efforts by Russia-oriented folks
to get rid of him, and shut him up.

I really don't know, for example, what the implications would be for the ozone layer if the chemocline of the Black Sea reaches the surface,
in the kind of breakout that Peter Ward has discussed. I just don't know. Likewise for the North Atlantic scenario.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

what is the electron?

My recent paper at scribd and vixra are as close as anything on earth to
properly specifying "the next" new unification of physics, and what we really know.
Of the three key steps, rewriting the book on time and letting bosons be bosons (not real particles if fundamental) are objectively clear, and more a matter of empirical
follow-up by others than of things needed from me. Even the new strong nuclear part in section 3 calls out for experiments and appreciation of experiments now,


I now see how the electron part requires further theoretical work, beyond what is described in the paper. Also, my new paper corrects one minor labeling problem in the earlier paper on "stability" but a few more or needed. This blog will outline what needs to be added or changed.

The 'tHooft-Polyakov model, extended by an eta term, is a major step TOWARDS a decent first model of the electron, but has some flaws which need to be corrected.

On the positive side... it shows how CHARGE can lead to a kind of zero-radius limiting solution, where the non-charge part of the mass-energy is positive definite and goes to zero, close to provong stability. That replicates some very essential properties of the electron, ala De Broglie, and should not be lost... in a more refined model,
building n what we learn from this "simple" example. Also, it includes three bosonic fields, the A-super-a for a=1, 2, 3, which is the multiplicity we see in electroweak theory. Obviously, I do not agree with every last details of today's quantum electroweak model, but for a next model of the electron it is reasonable to preserve features which have been verified by experiment;
existence of three bosonic fields in the very model of the electron itself is appropriate.

But there are features which disqualify it as well. First, there is a total lack of mechanisms to choose a particular charge in the entire R3 space of possible charges. There is no explanation of why we see just one point in that space, at least in the case of he electron... and we do not see a lot of near-electrons out there. That in turn implies that the stability is just a kind of metastability. Second, there is no explanation for why our A (electromagnetism) is so different from W and Z.

There is then an obvious way to fix the problem.

EWT being a parity-violating model, we use the e-mu-nu=lambda-rho tensor for ordinary covariant vectors (pseudovectors), not spinors.

I also obtained Hobart (1965) yesterday, which shows how very easy it is to get stable "solitons" with second order derivatives in the Lagrangian (though the electron is not a star). It provides encouragement.

We basically need to use teh Lagrangian of electroweak theory as the main starting point, but replace the spinor "Q" fields with vector fields using the e-mu...
tensor to hold it together, using something like the ordinary Higgs term in place of the 'tHooft-Polyakov one (initially), and otherwise replicating as closely as possible the kind of mechanism in my paper on 'tHooft-Polyakov. That's the key next step.

One caveat, of course, is that details of that Higgs term can be changed, and that may be the most important step after that, to meet Macgregor's empirical challenge. Here it should not be so hard, since we do not need to worry about renormalizability.


Some important details....

CERNS says they "saw" W and Z in the sense that they saw a kind of four-c hannel interaction which outputs what they predict Z and W decay into. But we also see four channel processes for the "photon." It seems reasonable to believe all three are fundamental fields, not particles or solitons as such. But why not HIggs likewise? It seems we need to re-evaluate more than just the "particlehood" of Higgs. Macgregor's challenge already suggests as much, and suggests a more harmonious posisbility...
recaling that we do nt need HIggs term for mass (that's in charge) but for singularity/stabilization. Maybe simple fourth order aspects can take care of that without a HIggs term at all. But still, the role of A versus Z and W must be in teh second-stage model. (The first stage EWT-like version would srill fit all we know,
which is a big step up... on the path.)

Also... I have a green notebook with the rather elaborate PDE details of the analysis I mention in the paper on "stability". Someday I do need to write those down, though most physics texts these days are annoying in not including such tedious details. Time for a higher standard. But at 5AM, maybe that time is still not instant for me.

A key result in my "stability" paper is that the current 'tHooft ansatz for that model,
even interpreted as the limit as eta goes to zero, is WRONG. We get a decent singular soliton solution, as eta goes to zero, but it isn't the one of Higgs mass they now
assume/get. That one is not the miniumum energy solution, or the limit of the minimum energy solutions. Wrong limit; failure to analyze limits. That kind of problem often screws up people fundamentally naive about mathematics. Fortunately, the correction gets us closer to what we need to explain in empirical reality. But is there a new ansatz... or do we start to need computers? It would be nice to know... but
the Stage One plausible model (starting from EWT) might be a better base anyway.
And there we need invoke only one charge, which may help the analysis.

A strategy for proving stability (which Bogolmony has certainly NOT done, a great myth of the GUT people, almost like a crago cult)...

woould try to START from the "Q stability" which the stability paper cites...
though the energy expression minus the charge term is clearly nonnegative, and indefinite modes must be treated properly. (we have SOME indefinite modes which exist even in a strictlt stable chaoiton, like translation and gauge transformation, but we need to be sure there are none which violate chaoiron status.) To "complete" the stability proof... a bnecessary first step is to consider exactly one new perturbation, (delta C Q, delta C A), where CQ is the derivartive of the scalar C (total charge) with respect to the Q field values...

That's necessary, and ignored by Bogolmonyi etc.

But in the delta squared H "matrix", there are also cross-terms which should be conisdered for a complete proof of stability. That's worth doing for all three models I have discussed here (tHooft-Polyakov plus etz; stage one EWT; moditied EWT).
But Stage one EWT is the most important for now, and proof of the necessary condition involving charge perturbations is the most immediate check needed.

Now: the real problem is how to reconcile this with all my other time opressures,
not just job but "saving the world" stuff. All unique personal responsibilities, it seems, in a world of people having real troubles tying their shoelaces.
I do hope someone else can take over... eventually take over all of it, as I do seem to be a typical aging mortal of 64.

Will anyone on earth EVER understand what an electron is? Even better, while we still have ways to use such knowledge?


Let me emphasize that this post is HIGHLY short-term and tentative, like what I put in my green notebooks, sometimes worked out, but in general groping....

My immediate followup was to reread Taylor's book on Gauge Theories and Weak Interactions, a very nice review of EWT. Perhaps just W and B are enough for the first stage model, with electron as emerging as a soliton of them. No need for the e four tensor at this stage; the simple wedgies in the W basics may be all we need, remembering how we do have electron and positron as well. But extra terms of course..
and care to make sure that charge and handedness of the soliton properties have a link. It does not sound radially symmetric exactly, b ut is even the tHooft Polyakov ansatz so?

Hey... if you can do it, please do so. My only reason for feeling that I should be the one to take this on is that no one else really has. But OK, I also think it's good for my general education.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

fundamental truth in Buddhism

Fundamental truth in Buddhism

Buddhism, like all the great religions, includes important fundamental truths.

In the study of spirit, as in the study of physics, of biological evolution and of neuroscience, it is possible to make progress in coming closer to the greater objective truth, even though this progress may follow ups and downs and spirals, like those described by Toynbee and by Piaget (or by Joel Whitton, whose book Life Between Life and its new sequel can be seen as an important Buddhist source).

I have learned many things about the strands of Buddhism, after visiting many dozens of Buddhist centers and temples and intellectuals, from the Pamir mountains to the biggest temple of all (near Xian) to Nara to Chicken Dragon Mountain to the suburbs of Washington DC. But here I will focus on a few very central foundations.

First, a story. Fifteen years ago, because of my personal circumstances, I was a very regular member and attender of the Quaker meeting in Adelphi, Maryland. A Zen Buddhist friend asked what Quakers are about. To him, over beer, I said: “It is not a religion with doctrine, really. That is important to me, because I have my own ideas and understanding. It is a practice, not a doctrine. At the core, it is a matter of getting together every week for a kind of silent group meditation. People do speak on rare occasion, when they feel truly moved by the higher inner spirit to do so, but only when they feel it will strengthen the inner nonverbal communication, dialogue and community.” He said: “That is amazing. That is actually what we say we are doing in Zen Buddhism, except that in Zen Buddhism … we say we have no doctrine, but we spend a lot of time arguing doctrine.”

This reminded me of the old history of Nara in Japan, where people talk and laugh to this day about the violent emotional battles between the blue hat monks and the yellow hat monks, all of whom agreed violently that halfway enlightened people do not feel such violent emotions. Some Buddhist tell a rough story of seven circles of existence, to try to put the foibles on such monks in a good context, but Christians should not be too smug about such paradox and apparent hypocrisy.

By analogy, I still remember a meeting on Rhodos, where a high archbishop from Georgia and a high archbishop from Russia started to behave like people in an old black and white comedy movie – two big fat men in black robes throwing pies at each other over some kind of political issue. At the time, I wondered: “What would Jesus say about these people’s ability to advance and manifest the core value of love, what the whole thing was about?” But Christianity also includes Tolstoy, who wrote the Grand Inquisitor, and Buddhists do sometimes rise above doctrinal wars.

But the doctrinal debates are not without content, and real learning does involve content.

In 2011, visiting the local public library with my wife, I saw a little article in Tricycle (the American Buddhist magazine) by Stephen Bodhian, who had been a student of leading Buddhists both of the Tibetan school and of the Zen School. He reported a kind of debate between the two. At the end of the debate, the Tibetan Buddhist leader ended with a one word summary of his goal: “mindfulness.” The Zen Buddhist then had the last word in this debate: “no mind.”

This is a huge gulf, which becomes ever more important as one learns more and needs less approximation on core matters. From what I have learned (some summarized in my 2012 paper in press in Neural Networks), I would say that the TIbetans are 100% right and the Zen 100% wrong on this particular point, as discussed here. The Zen view can be useful to some people in some circumstances, just as even the belief in Adam and Eve can be helpful to some people struggling to make progress and survive in some circumstances, but there is a larger truth, and nihilism is not it. Zen can be very helpful to some people trying to rise above some of the florid fantasies and political aberrations which some Tibetan Buddhists can fall into at times, but it serves mainly as a kind of antidote, as a source of questions, not as a foundation for answers. Nihilism is not a correct or reliable foundation for answers or for the constructive leading of life.

One core concept of Buddhism is that of the boddisatva versus the Buddha. This story is told in many ways, but the most common version is that the state of being a boddisatva is one step below the final state of buddahood. The boddisatva is in a way like a retired person who spends his last few years teaching and telling stories to the grandchildren, before disappearing altogether from this world and its people. In the highest stage, the individual role rises to a higher plane of some kind, never to
visit us troubled people again.

From my experience and my best understanding, I would say: “Not quite.” Even Gautama Buddha, when asked about reincarnation of the individual soul, said that it is like a drop of water returning to the ocean and evaporating as part of the circle of water. The water continues, but as part of that larger ocean.

No matter how much we learn here on earth, we are connected to each other and to the basic spiritual matrix of the earth, just as cells in the body are connected to each other and to the biological matrix (e.g. bones). The natural evolution and growth is not really separable. For so long as the spirit of humanity and of the earth endures, and so long as we physically live in this neighborhood, we grow and we cycle in this world. It is the evolution of the whole, not of the independent personal “Buddha,” which is the path and the highest destiny we have in front of us. Of course, evolution of the whole INCLUDES the greatest realization and development of its components as well, but it is not realistic to imagine we can or should safely escape our basic humanity… even as we develop independent thinking in order to better contribute to that greater whole.

To be honest… I have wondered in recent years: “What happens if the human species really does succeed in going extinct?” If we are honest, and yet human, and pay attention to what is happening today on the earth, we would be foolish and arrogant to imagine we can be certain that this will not happen. I have spent much of my time and effort trying to improve the probability that the human species avoids extinction, but it is clear that success is not even close to being guaranteed. There are multiple possible future paths… and total extinction is very much part of many of them. Not all, but many.

I suppose it is possible that souls which are advanced enough may find a place somewhere else in the galaxy. But as rule, the more people count on that, the LESS likely is it that it will apply to them, if it applies to anyone at all. In this world, when a body dies, the cells do not fare so well.

This idea reminds me of a guy I knew who used to be a major partner in Arthur Anderson, looking for a job elsewhere. Even if one survives… it is not so much fun to be looking for a new job when the previous place ended in bankruptcy – especially when one talks to folks who want results (“by their fruits you will know them”), not excuses. And it’s all a very big “if” anyway.