http://www.engineeringnews.co.za
  SEARCH
Login
R/€ = 13.29Change: -0.09
R/$ = 11.70Change: -0.05
Au 1207.85 $/ozChange: 1.57
Pt 1174.50 $/ozChange: -1.50
 
 
Note: Search is limited to the most recent 250 articles. Set date range to access earlier articles.
Where? With... When?








Start
 
End
 
 
And must exclude these words...
Close Main Search
Close Main Login
My Profile News Alerts Newsletters Logout Close Main Profile
 
Agriculture   Automotive   Chemicals   Competition Policy   Construction   Defence   Economy   Electricity   Energy   Environment   ICT   Metals   Mining   Science and Technology   Services   Trade   Transport & Logistics   Water  
What's On Press Office Tenders Suppliers Directory Research Jobs Announcements Letters Contact Us
 
 
 
RSS Feed
Article   Comments   Other News   Research   Magazine  
 
 
Jan 16, 2009

As Newton said, the whole ocean of truth 
is still out there

Back
Energy
Energy
energy
© Reuse this



I recall sitting in a meeting years ago, where a group of about 15 people had to view some business artwork presented 
by an artist.

People said that the basic colour was ‘black on white’. The artist replied: “No, it is not black – it is midnight blue.” The group said it was black and the artist insisted it was midnight blue, and an argument ensued. I sat still and listened as it became more heated.

I decided that the artist was right. I had two reasons – the first was that he had studied the subject and so knew more about it than the rest of us, so we should respect his professionalism. Secondly, from a physics point of view, the midnight sky is dark but not black – it is suffused with a scatter of starlight from billions of stars.

So I put up my hand, entered the discussion and announced that the artist was right. That stopped the argument and the artist was really relieved. He later thanked me for saving his pride. That was an interesting learning experience for me too – to remember 
to respect the professionalism of others, even when an answer seems obvious to those not trained in the subject.

Before Christmas, I looked up into the night to watch the International Space Station (ISS) race across the sky. In fact, it seems to lazily drift across the star-studded background but, in reality, it is travelling at a tremendous speed, a speed that makes international jet travel appear to be a snail’s pace.

I knew exactly where to look and at what time and, exactly on time, the ISS appeared. It is emotional, because one knows that there are people up there looking down. I mentally waved and thought: “Hi guys, I wish I were up there with you.”

When Bill Clinton was President of the US, 
I personally asked him to arrange a flight in the space shuttle for me, and he said he would tell the people concerned, which he then did as I stood there. Well, heck, I can hope, can’t I? I hoped that one of those aides would somehow filter my name back to the people who take such decisions.


It now appears that the vastness of space is not actually empty. For years, astronomers had found that gravity calculations were just not working out. There was not enough 
visible matter to account for the forces that were evident. They concluded that there must be something else hiding up there.

During the early 1930s, Fritz Zwicky, a professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, realised that faraway galaxies were moving “too fast” for the maths.

Zwicky was very hung up on symmetry, and he 
referred to people he did not like as ‘spherical’ bastards – ‘spherical’ because they were bastards, “whichever way you looked at them”.

By 1936, corroborating evidence had been found by Sinclair Smith, of the Mount Wilson Observatory. Over the next 30 years, the 
evidence mounted, but it was astronomers Vera Rubin and Kent Ford who clinched the case. The conclusion was reached that the universe is full of ‘dark matter’.

Famously, one cannot see a black cat in the dark, but this is not the case with dark matter. We cannot see it because we cannot see it – we don’t know why. It is not a case of it being invisible because no light is shining on it. So we still have to find out what it actually is. But it is there.

Now, to make matters even more complicated, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us that force fields cannot be stable – they are always ‘jittering’ a little bit. So gravity is jittering.


When the universe was first formed in a big bang, one would expect it to have been very uniform. Imagine an explosive going off in a bag of flour; why should any particles of flour join up? Well, the ‘jittering’ required by Heisenberg caused a couple of particles here, there, and there, and there . . . to join up, as the big bang unfolded.

These particles grew to become galaxies as eons of time passed. So all the galaxies, stars, planets and our bodies came from nothing less than a quantum jitter.


The maths now says that the jittering is still going on . . . required by law – the Heisenberg Principle! So the vacuum of space is not empty. In technical language, the fields 
undergo ‘vacuum fluctuations’.

This means that photons of energy suddenly appear out of nowhere, for a moment, and then disappear back into nowhere. This is happening all the time. Wow!

Dutch physicist Hendrik Casmir figured out how vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field could actually be detected. In 1977, Steven Lamoreaux, of the University of Washington, experimentally confirmed Casmir’s predictions. So empty space is teeming with quantum activity.


Nobody currently understands what is going 
on, but it seems the thing that we know as empty space is actually made of something. So the ‘nothing’ between the earth and the moon is made of ‘something’ and I don’t mean the drifting dust and rocks, and probably not even the dark matter.

As a new year unfolds, there are great 
volumes of wonderful stuff to explore and discover. Many great, wondrous revelations are still waiting in the wings to spring onto the stage of understanding.

Over 300 years ago, Isaac Newton said: “The whole ocean of truth is still out there.” It is still the case.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other Dr Kelvin Kemm News
Just to be clear, to defer something means to postpone it. While this might be construed as procrastination, it provides a financial benefit in the customs and value-added tax (Vat) environment. The South African Revenue Service (Sars) deferment scheme provides a...
There has been considerable debate on whether Cape Town should rename a street after former President FW de Klerk. Many people of note have come out publicity in favour of the intended move. In fact, some African National Congress stalwarts have come out strongly in...
I read that Parliament has instructed a committee to look into a dress code for MPs. I think that this is an excellent move. Obviously, this was precipitated by the wearing of red overalls and maid’s outfits by members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). In fact,...
Article contains comments
More
 
 
Latest News
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel
The Department of Economic Development, together with Spanish solar company Abengoa and the Industrial Development Corporation on Monday launched a 100 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) park, about 60 km outside Pofadder, in the Northern Cape. Speaking to journalists...
South Africa could face another delay in its already years-delayed digital migration project if government adopted the much-disputed conditional access (CA) for the set-top boxes (STBs) required to intercept digital broadcasting frequencies. Emerging black-owned...
JSE-listed real estate investment trust Dipula Income Fund has entered into agreements to acquire the Umzimkhulu Shopping Centre, in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the Corporate Industrial Park, in Polokwane, from two different vendors for R336-million. The industrial...
More
 
 
Recent Research Reports
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
 
 
 
 
 
This Week's Magazine
Subscribe to Engineering News and Mining Weekly for two years, but only pay for the first year.  The weekly editions of Engineering News and Mining Weekly will be posted to your preferred postal address and also gain access to:
National flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) is in an advanced stage of renegotiating its deal with European airliner manufacturer Airbus to acquire A320 single-aisle (or narrow body) aircraft. The aim is to replace ten of the aircraft still on order with five...
Worldwide, the main thrust in the ports industry over the past decade or more has been to increase efficiency. Traditionally, ports have been run by engineers and mariners and, in the past, increasing a port’s capacity was achieved by expanding the harbour. “That has...
What do you do when an elephant has a toothache? You call Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from the University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) faculty of veterinary science, Onderstepoort, one of only two elephant ‘dentists’ in the world.
The 2015 Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) competition was launched earlier this month in Johannesburg, with the main focus on creating and inspiring entrepreneurs to create jobs and boost the economy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alert Close
Embed Code Close
content
Research Reports Close
Research Reports are a product of the
Research Channel Africa. Reports can be bought individually or you can gain full access to all reports as part of a Research Channel Africa subscription.
Find Out More Buy Report
 
 
Close
Engineering News
Completely Re-Engineered
Experience it now. Click here
*website to launch in a few weeks
Subscribe Now for $96 Close
Subscribe Now for $96