My mother asked, “is anybody in it?” I said, “no, but I like the way you think.”
Data is continuously recorded on an eight-track digital tape player
that, nonetheless, can hold the equivalent of half a gigabyte.
Head Cleaning Kit mission, STAT!
the spirit of the great carl sagan… along with an engraved message, “yeah science! yeah mr. white!”
This might be my favorite BB post ever. It’s a great tribute to the scientists and technicians who designed and built Voyager that we are still getting such fresh discoveries from it. Amazing. Also argument 1 why I can’t give a fuck about manned space exploration in a vast, hostile universe. More state of the art probes like Voyager please.
"Space. The final frontier.
This is the journey of the space probe Voyager. Its mission: to explore beyond our world. To continue, outward, into the universe.
To boldly go… where no man
has gone before."
Just a minute ago I loaded Google News, and there it was in the Iowa State Daily:
Voyager I Leaves Milky Way
Ah, science journalism…
EDIT: The link has now changed the headline to a more appropriate
Voyager I Enters Interstellar Space
Great article, but I was distracted by loads of typos. For example “number of electronic” should be “number of electrons” and “coronal ejection set” should be “coronal ejection sent”. And the big whopper: “can retain” should be “cannot retain”.
Typos and other errors happily fixed when enumerated!
Re: “It was long suspected that there was a termination shock beyond the Kuiper belt where the solar wind would abruptly slow and perhaps produce a physical shock wave much like breaking the speed barrier does on Earth. In fact, that point exists and was measured but Voyager 1 and 2 have, in their separate directions, passed it without a bump.”
This “termination shock” language we see that is oftentimes used by astrophysicists to describe cosmic plasma phenomena is possibly troublesome. Keep in mind that what we are measuring with plasmas is charged particles, their movements and the magnetic fields that these movements generate. Hannes Alfven – the Nobel laureate who invented the magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) models which are now widely used to model these cosmic plasmas – was adamant that there is no sense to simply applying mechanical terminology to cosmic plasmas. In fact, there exists quite a bit of controversy on the nature of these cosmic plasma models, insofar as Alfven distanced himself in his Nobel lecture in 1970 from the way in which astrophysicists were applying those MHD equations. Truth be told, the idealized MHD models which are now widely deployed cannot support electrodynamic phenomena. That would drastically distinguish the MHD models from the plasmas we are more familiar with down here on Earth (like your fluorescent or neon bulbs) – which absolutely demand such electrodynamics to function.
See “Why Space Needs to Go Beyond the MHD Box” or “Importance of Electric Fields in Modeling Space Plasmas”.
Re: “But the true edge is often considered at the Oort Cloud, which primarily ends at 50,000 AU, or 400 times the current distance that Voyager 1 is from the sun, and which may extend out faintly to 100,000 or 200,000 AU.”
Note that the Oort Cloud is completely hypothetical (reporters really need to mention this!), and a necessary construct to support conventional cometary theory – which has in recent years run into a number of observational issues. There is much reason today to be skeptical about our theories for comets, and the Oort Cloud cannot escape this skepticism.
Glenn Fleishman seems to know conventional theory quite well, but our models have not been working so well for this mission. Science journalism should also include a discussion of the under-performing aspects of our models, in addition to what is thought to be true. There have been, for instance, a lot of radio observations at 21 cm that have been done by Gerrit Verschuur which appear to suggest that the interstellar medium is not at all “cloud-like” – but instead, at least in many places, extremely filamentary and even knotted. In fact, Verschuur has published a number of papers where he cites the existence of critical ionization velocity (CIV) redshifts emitted from these knots. Conventional theorists have largely failed to comprehend the significance of this claim, and have been rather dismissive of it. Observing CIV’s associated with a knot within an interstellar filament would strongly suggest that the filaments are conducting electrical currents, as in a novelty plasma globe, for a CIV is what one gets when you slam charged particles into a neutral cloud of gas at an enormous velocity. In the process, the neutral cloud of gas is ionized. That claim, by itself, would seem to upend much of modern-day astrophysics and cosmology.
Verschuur is hardly some “fringe” researcher, and yet, since his results have not supported existing theories, what we tend to see in practice is that astrophysicists do not pay them much heed.
I talk routinely with astrophysics about these observations online and they are far too quick to reject anything which contradicts their textbook stories. The public should adopt a skeptical stance here, for this is not like the other successful sciences we are far more familiar with. We cannot really do experiments out there, and these MHD equations deviate in very important ways from our laboratory plasma observations. For a great historical review of how these idealized MHD equations came to be applied to cosmic plasmas, see David Talbott’s historical review of Hannes Alfven’s life story …
The Plasma Universe of Hannes Alfven
At some point along the way of seeing lots of surprises, we should in theory come to expect surprises, and pay more heed to what they mean for our models.
Terrifically informative and useful provisos about standard models. I wondered in the last year if the Voyager team would be able to accept any evidence that contradicted their model, and it seemed that they needed to construct their own specific set that would allow them to accept the conclusions of the other papers that challenged the field-orientation model that has apparently proved false.
In terms of the Oort Cloud, whether it exists in its theorized form or not, it’s a shorthand for the ebb of the sun’s gravitational pull (noted in my article), which is the measure of the solar system for some scientists, whether or not the Oort Cloud manifests itself in the way that’s currently the dominant thinking.
I do agree one should provide hedges or details about all the side elements where possible, but it’s also difficult in a single descriptive piece, even as long as mine, to mention the swirl of competing theories, even if some of them are as compelling and likely provably true compared to standard models.
Ain’t this always the problem? Until other scientists take an interest and either replicate, validate, or provide complementary insight to his findings, he may be a voice in the wilderness, and much later wins the Nobel Prize.
Oh sure, the Star Trek stuff sounds great until the thing gets sucked through a wormhole, upgraded by sentient machines and sent back on a destructive quest to find its creator.
Remember, this probably wouldn’t be possible without our friend, radioactivity – thanks Plutonium!
Glenn, you’re a breath of fresh air in a discipline which many would say has turned its back on critical thinking. I hope to see more.
One thing that I’ve incidentally noticed in conversations with physics grad students is that they consistently lack awareness of the controversies associated with conventional theories, as well as their own discipline. Jeff Schmidt – a former editor for Physics Today for 19 years – wrote a rather scathing critique of the physics PhD program which really needs a much wider discussion. The book is titled Disciplined Minds, and he was fired by the American Institute of Physics for publishing it. He countered with a lawsuit, and more than 700 researchers (plus one Noam Chomsky) signed their names in defense of his right to lodge this critique. The AIP ended up settling the case with a huge (yet undisclosed) financial reward to Schmidt.
But, the problem today is that none of the physics PhD students are being told about those critiques, and the whole event somehow managed to completely escape the public’s notice. It’s a very controversial book which anybody who is intensely interested in physics needs to take a look at, for it speaks directly to the meaning of consensus in science: Does consensus emerge, based upon the evidence, as the public simply assumes? Or, is ideology now simply a part of the curriculum, enforced by professors who have complete (and anonymous) control over who does and doesn’t get a physics PhD?
I leave it up to others to come to their own conclusion, but I would urge people to read Schmidt’s book before making up their minds.
It’s best when it gets out of the atmosphere first.
I guess in space there’s no car interior dust or coca cola to spill?
The dinosaurs would have a great counterargument to that, if they were still around (and, no, birds don’t count).
What I want to know is just what are the scientists covering up? Shouldn’t the instruments be picking up strumming harps by now?
Was reading through the letters in the Sydney Morning Herald and came across this gem about a story on Voyager 1
I do wish that the Herald editorial team would stop presenting Carl Sagan science fiction gibberish dressed up as if it were fact (’‘The little spacecraft that could’’, September 14-15). It occurred over the weekend, when we were fed a far-fetched story about a space vehicle named Voyager and interstellar exploration.
This is the same type of pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo that exploiters of the public purse have been doing with climate change over many years. It is arrant nonsense and has to stop right here and now. The Herald does itself no favours by printing it, pretending that the sci-fi exaggerations are factual.
Bill Thomas Cabramatta
I googled that thinking it altogether was a full name.