Category Archives: 20th-century-fiction

LOST – – THE END!

Thanks to Lostpedia for all the brilliant insight. And Here….we…..go!

THEY WERE NOT “DEAD THE WHOLE TIME”

I don’t know why people are having trouble understanding this, as it is CLEARLY explained in the final minutes of the finale episode by Christian Shephard (Jack’s dad). The original Oceanic 815 plane crash happened. Everything on the Island through seasons 1-6 happened. The “flash sideways” universe introduced in season 6 was a sort of stop-over point between life and afterlife (referred to here as the “purgatory universe”).

Each person in this “purgatory universe” created a reality for themselves based on their lingering issues in life – that which they could not “let go” of. For Jack it was Daddy issues; Kate, the guilt of murder; Sawyer, the quest to find “Sawyer” and be a better man; Sayid, the unrequited love of Nadia; Charlie, looking for something “real” in his hollow life of fame, etc…

Everyone was still attached to their Earthly concerns (we’re getting very Buddhist here, bear with me) – but when they made contact with those people they’d met on the Island, they remembered the journey and growth they had experienced because of the Island, and could finally understand the connections and “purpose” brought into their damaged lives by being there. With that greater understanding of themselves, they were each ready to “leave” or “move on” to the next phase of existence – i.e., the true afterlife.

WHAT WAS THAT FINAL IMAGE OF THE CRASHED PLANE?

Some people are convinced the final image during the end credits of the Lost finale was the “clue” to the characters being dead the whole time. OK, let’s think about this: The image appears during the closing credits, after the final appearance of the “LOST” logo. That means that the story had officially ended. Saying that the biggest reveal came while the end credits were rolling is like saying a movie’s climax happens during the end credits. Not bloody likely.

The image of the plane crash (if you look closely) has memorabilia from the Lostie’s time on the beach where they first made camp. Shacks, towels, etc… it was one part nostalgia (remember where it all began?) and also one part commentary on the circular nature of the Island.

Like the Black Rock ship that brought Richard to the Island (“Ab Aeterno“), or the downed plane with the heroin that had Mr. Ecko’s brother’s corpse inside of it (“The 23rd Psalm“), the remains of Oceanic 815 and the evidence of a small community built on the beach are just more monuments of the Island. The next time somebody crashes there, they’ll see that stuff and wonder what the “mystery” behind it is…

Then they’ll whine and complain about how unsatisfying the answer is. (“What? That’s how that mystical guy “Hurley” came to the Island? LAME.”)

WHAT WAS DESMOND’S POWER?

One of the biggest things people seem to be questioning is how Desmond was able to “wake up” from the purgatory universe and how he had the know-how to “wake up” the other Losties. For that answer, you really just have to look back over the history of Desmond.

Desmond (specifically through his connection to Penny Widmore) is a sort of “constant” in the show. No matter what happens, when, or where, Desmond seems somehow immune to the Island’s energy (which has electromagnetic properties) and has a sort of awareness that can transcend space and time (his consciousness shifts seen in episodes like “The Constant“). These “shifts” and Widmore’s explanation that Desmond is special because of his resistance to the Island’s energies, imply that Desmond would even be able to “shift” his consciousness back and forth between this universe and the purgatory one, catalyzed by Widmore’s team placing him in that huge electromagnetic machine in the season six episode, “Happily Ever After“.

So, it does stand to reason (at least Lost reasoning) that Desmond – after having his consciousness “shifted” to the purgatory reality – would “wake up” after encountering HIS constant, Penny. It’s another fast and loose metaphysical explanation, but one that (for me) still works within the framework of the show.

WHAT’S  THE DEAL WITH THE ISLAND’S “RULES?”

Over the course of the show people have wondered about the mythology of the Island – where it came from, what it is and what are the “rules” that govern it and its mystical protectors? Admittedly, this is an area where the showrunners played things fast and loose, hoping that the momentum of the characters’ story arcs and the whole “good vs. evil” showdown would be enough to appease most fans. Alas, not so.

Season six of Lost did a great deal to semi-explain what the island was – a sort of container for a very important energy that seemingly links this world with worlds beyond… or something. That energy is represented by light and water, and if that light goes out and the water stops flowing, the world is basically screwed. Everything magical or fantastic about the Island stems from this energy, and many of the technological oddities found on the Island (the Swan Station from season 2) are a result of the Dharma Initiative trying to harness and control that energy (i.e., man trying to bend magic and mysticism to the will of modern science).

However, there are some things that were definitely left unexplained: Why did the Man In Black become a smoke monster when he was exposed to the light (was it a manifestation of his corrupted soul)?; What is the nature of the “rules” that governed certain aspects of the Island – who could come and go, who could kill who, who was healed from injury (Locke, Rose), who lived forever (Richard). How were these rules established and maintained?

The Jacob/MIB origin episode, “Across The Sea”, attempted to fill in that aspect of the Island mythology, but what we came away with were a lot of vague pseudo-explanations. The protector of the Island basically makes up the rules and once those rules are established they are set until somebody (a new protector?) changes them. This is the reason why the MIB was obsessed with “finding a loophole” in order to kill Jacob; it’s also why Jack was ultimately able to kill the MIB. Smokey was connected to the energy source, and when Jack had Desmond “turn off” that energy, Smokey lost his powers and was merely flesh and blood.

THE WIDMORE/LINUS CONUNDRUM

Ok… so there’s implication of what the Island’s “rules” are, but that gets a bit problematic when you think back to season 4 of Lost – which is basically about Charles Widmore sending operatives to the island to do what he cannot (get revenge on Ben Linus). There was that whole sub-plot about how it was ‘against the rules’ for Widmore to return to the Island, and how Widmore “changed the rules” by killing Ben’s adopted daughter, Alex. But why would the “rules” of the Island’s protectors apply to these two guys?

In the end, I think the showrunners went for an “It is what it is,” approach with the mystical rules governing the Island; they are convenient plot devices that support the story at various points, but don’t really hold up when looked at in conjunction with the entire series. The Widmore/Linus conundrum is simply one of those holes – a weak point of the Lost mythology, for sure.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE?

Remember when Lost had African-Americans as part of its “groundbreaking international cast?” Yeah, I vaguely do too. One friend of mine (and I’m sure of yours) watched the finale chanting “They better bring back Walt!” over and over – but no such luck.

Walt and his father Michael did make latter season Lost appearances: Locke visited Walt off the Island in the season five episode “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” and Michael appeared to Hurley as a ghost in season six, explaining the whole “whispers on the Island” thing. Still, many fans wondered why Walt, Michael and the “tailie” priest, Mr. Eko, didn’t reunite with the other cast members at the purgatory all-faith church in the finale.

Well, Michael we know is stuck on the Island as a “whisper” because he can’t move on, due to his killing of Libby and Ana Lucia in season two. Walt was freed from the Island early on, so the journey that bonded the Oceanic passengers in the purgatory universe was one that Walt was never really part of.

As for Mr. Eko, his death in the season 3 episode “The Cost of Living” showed that Eko had come to peace with his life. When told by the ghost of his brother Yemi to “Confess his sins,” Eko refused, saying that he had no guilt to confess; in his life, he did what he had to do to survive. The smoke monster evaluated Eko, who stood resolute about himself, his sins and the faith and redemption he’d ultimately found. After smokey beat Eko to pulp, Eko’s last vision was his young self walking away with his brother, holding the soccer ball they used to play with.

In short: Eko, by finding his faith and coming to peace with himself, had no reason to be in the purgatory world with the others. Wherever his soul was going, it was prepared for that journey – unlike the other passengers, who still had to come to peace with themselves and their deaths.

That all sounds deep, sure, but I’m sure off-screen conflicts with the actors and the fact that Macolm David Kelley (the kid who played Walt) hit puberty were also major factors.

WHAT ABOUT THE POLAR BEARS?

If you’re asking this question, you weren’t really paying attention to the show. Go rent Lost season 3 on DVD and see if you can’t figure out the polar bear “mystery” when the rest of us did… back in 2006. I’ll give you a hint: Dharma Initiative experiments.

WHAT ABOUT THE NUMBERS?

In the season six episode “The Substitute” Un-Locke takes Sawyer down to “Jacob’s cave” on the cliff (where Jack ultimately killed MIB) and in that cave, Sawyer observes that Jacob’s list of “candidates” for his replacement – our Losties – have numbers by their names. The list of candidates (Sawyer, Jack, Locke, Hugo, Sayid and “Kwon”) equate to the numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42 – the numbers that both steered Hurley to the Island in the first place (he went to Australia to find out about them), and served as the code for releasing the Island’s tapped energy in The Swan station. The numbers also showed up again and again throughout the show (Danielle’s papers, on medicine Claire and Desmond take, on Mr. Eko’s stick, etc…).

So in the end the numbers had to do with fate, and were a nice little numerology motif for the showrunners to play with (and a mathematical mystery for fans to agonize over). THE END.

BEN CONTROLS SMOKEY?

In the season 4 episode “The Shape of Things To Come” Ben Linus witnessed the murder of his daughter Alex at the hands of Charles Widmore’s mercenaries. Ben then accessed the secret room in his Dharma house and disappeared into a secret passage covered in hieroglyphics. When Ben returned, he brought the smoke monster with him, which murdered the team of Widmore’s assassins. Now we know the smoke monster was the Man In Black, but some viewers are still confused why Ben was able to “control the monster” in this season 4 episode, but not later in season six.

However, it is never said that Ben “controls” the smoke monster – the best word would be “summons.” This makes sense to the story, as Alex’s death is the event that makes Ben turn to the MIB for a favor – a favor which he later repays in season 5 by killing Jacob for the MIB. It’s the ultimate corruption of Ben Linus – the moment where he goes from being a blind servant of Jacob to serving evil. So I don’t quite consider this a loose end – just another case of misinterpretation by some viewers.

JACOB vs. THE DHARMA INITIATIVE

Ok, so this is MY major question. In one of my favorite Lost episodes, “The Man Behind The Curtain“, we learn all about Ben Linus’ childhood with the Dharma Initiative. The episode ends with the chilling revelation that Ben – conspiring with Richard – betrays “his people” in the initiative and mass murders them using nerve gas – including his own father. Ben then reveals to Locke what ultimately became of the Dharma Initiative: The Others threw their bodies into a gruesome mass grave.

Looking back from the series finale and the “Across The Sea” episode about Jacob’s past, I can’t help but wonder: did Jacob murder the Dharma Initiative?

We know that Richard is an emissary of Jacob – that is, Richard does Jacob’s bidding. So if Richard instructed Ben to kill the Dharma members, doesn’t that imply that Jacob instructed Richard to do so, much the same way Jacob’s “mother” slaughtered the men on the Island when the Man In Black got to close to them?

I find it hard to explain the death of the Dharma Initiative any other way, and that’s a huge narrative problem when you consider that our Losties – many of whom lived with and befriended the Dharma Initiative in the 70s – ultimately serve Jacob as well. They’re serving the man who most likely gave the order to murder their friends and co-workers!

It also blurs the lines between good and evil. Mass murder is never a good thing, so the fact that Jacob at least allowed the mass murder of the Dharma Initiative (it’s his role as “protector,” right?) is pretty ghastly when you think about it. This is the embodiment of “good” we’re supposed to root for? Makes you think the Man In Black wasn’t ALL bad…

WHAT ABOUT THE BOMB?

For me this is also a major problem of the Lost mythology. For much of season 6, many fans assumed (based on the opening to the season six premiere, “LA  X“) that the bomb that Jack and Co. detonated in the 70s (the season 5 finale) resulted in the Island sinking and an alternate timeline being created, in which Oceanic 815 never crashed, and things were slightly different in the lives of the passengers.

Now we know that the “alternate timeline” was actually purgatory where the Losties  all met up when they were dead, and the whole “alternate timeline” bit was a red herring.  So what, exactly, did the bomb do?

The obvious answer is that the bomb propelled the Losties back through time to the present day, where the the Swan station (a.k.a. “The Hatch”) was now a slightly different version of its former imploded self (see the photos below).

Like most time travel narratives, the situation with the hatch raises a ton of logistical questions, such as: Would Desmond still be on the island if the hatch had been destroyed in the past? Wouldn’t that alteration to the time stream have a ripple effect that disrupted everything else regarding the Oceanic 815 crashing? And so on…

Instead what we got was a time travel scenario where that one location, the 70s Swan station, seemed to “overlap” on its present-day self, while leaving the rest of the time stream unaffected (or something like that). It’s confusing and very problematic – yet another reason why time travel is something you probably want to stay away from as a storyteller…

In the end though, the outcome is the same: Whatever conduit to the Island’s energy source that the Dharma Initiative tapped when they made the Swan station was ultimately exhausted. Whether it was exhausted by the bomb Juliet set off, or the the moment in season 3 when Locke lost his faith and refused to push the button (“Live Together, Die Alone“) the energy was released, and The Swan was destroyed. The Losties made it back to the present, and there was never two timelines, apparently.

Try not to think too hard about it, I guess… But it certainly is a major thread left dangling.

These are just some of the lingering question Lost has left us with. For those of you who feel cheated by the finale – did any of these explanations help?

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FOUND: One ‘Lost’ reading list!

The show’s creators discuss literary influences, from Stephen King to Flannery O’Connor
May 14, 2010 | 7:00 am

Ever since Sawyer was shown reading “Watership Down” in Season One of “Lost,” an abundance of carefully placed works of literature have been featured on the show (in gym bags, on book shelves, in episode titles), spawning “Lost” book clubs and blogs filled with eager readers combing for clues to the fate of the stranded Oceanic Flight 815 survivors.

The unpredictable nature of the show left fans hungry for answers week after week and the referenced books have provided plenty of theorizing and heated discussions, even as the show moves towards its conclusion.

Executive producers and writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse grew up reading a lot of the same authors (Stephen King, John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut) and have acknowledged literature’s influence in the way they have shaped the show.

“It’s a nod to that process,” Lindelof (who is also co-creator) explained last year. “We pick the books with a great deal of meticulous thought and specificity and talk about what the thematic implications of picking a certain book are, why we’re using it in the scene and what we want the audience to deduce from that choice.”

Because “Lost” was not a carbon-copy cop show, legal drama or medical show, there was not a lot of precedence for its unique structure. Lindelof and Cuse found inspiration in the making of the show in books as opposed to movies or other TV shows.

They noted Stephen King’s “The Stand” as a blueprint for early episodes. “It was this very long, character-oriented book that hung on a high-concept premise that the entire nation had been infected with this super-flu, and it was the equivalent of people crashing on this mysterious island. Both based on incredibly intricate and involved character dynamics,” Cuse said.

More than 70 books have been referenced during the six seasons, including heavy reads such as the 700-page “Ulysses” by James Joyce and “The Odyssey” by Homer. Whether it’s a plot line, character or theme, many elements seen in “Lost” can be traced back to a book: time travel (“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking), alternate realities (“Alice in Wonderland,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” A Wrinkle in Time”), differing points of view and flashbacks (“Catch 22″) or simply the title of an episode (“Through the Looking Glass,” “Tale of Two Cities,” “There’s No Place Like Home”). All reflect the producers’ and writers’ fondness for great literature.

There are a few titles that have been referenced regularly throughout the series and undoubtedly for good reasons. “Watership Down,” Richard Adams’ novel about a society of rabbits searching for a safe place in a threatening world, is one.

“’Watership Down’ was the book that got me started reading the books on the show,” said James Brush, a high school English teacher in Austin, Texas, who started his own blog devoted to the books on “Lost.” “It always makes me think of Jack. He’s like the main character, Hazel. He’s not the biggest or strongest but he’s smart and grows wise.”

Rather than one all-encompassing book that sums up the entire series, each season seemed to have a few titles relevant to the storyline. “Each season had a book that has for me really resonated,” Brush said. “In Season 3 it was ‘Catch 22’ by Joseph Heller. Charlie was going to die and Desmond knew it. He was stuck in this loop of trying to get out of the current situation yet making it worse.”

Another Brush favorite: “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “The characters are drawn with a lot of psychological depth. I found similarities to Jack, Locke and Sawyer,” he noted. “The theme of patricide connected and was reinforced with their serious father issues revealed in Season 2.”

The Sawyer factor. The most unlikely bookworm on the island is the one character we see reading the most, from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Fountainhead“ by Ayn Rand. In the Season 3 DVD, Lindelof mentions Sawyer’s similarities to the main character in “The Fountainhead,” Howard Roark. Both are rebels against the general culture of their society and prefer to be by themselves.

If one book was most influential on the show, it was probably “Alice in Wonderland.” “To say there is only one is unfair,” said Lindelof, “but we keep coming back to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ thematically. That was a book that both Carlton and I remember very specifically as children. It was a gateway drug to sci-fi and fantasy in many ways.”

Lindelof said he read a lot of Piers Anthony as a kid, and is an expert on “The Wizard of Oz.” One ode to the L. Frank Baum classic: when we first meet Ben, he uses the alias Henry Gale, the name of Dorothy’s uncle, and claims to have crashed on the island in a hot air balloon.

Cuse, known to be the “Narnia” scholar on the show, cited Flannery O’Connor as his greatest influence. “We have a lot of religious themes and sudden and striking violence and she was the master at that. I love her work.”

Jacob was seen reading O’ Connor’s collection of short stories, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” in a flashback scene in Season 5. “In one story, ‘Judgment Day,’ a man imagines how he’ll fake his own death, take his coffin from New York City to the South and surprise his friends with the fact that he’s still alive,” Brush said. “That’s sort of what happened with Locke when he re-manifested himself. “

Brush noted that if “Lost” follows the trajectory of this or any of these stories, a happy ending isn’t likely.

Is there one single book’s plot that will predict the ending?

Some bloggers see clues in “Left Behind,” by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, in which several passengers aboard a plane suddenly and mysteriously disappear. They learn that Christ has come to take the faithful with him in preparation for the coming apocalyptic battle between good and evil and those left behind must decide to join the forces of Christ or the forces of darkness.

There’s no escaping the not-so-subtle references to “The Bible” with Jacob and the Man in Black, light vs. dark, mentions of sacrifice on the horizon and Richard shouting “We are in Hell!”

Brush believes that the heart of this season, lies within “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by Salman Rushdie and “Deep River” by Shūsaku Endō, a tale about finding balance. The premise of “Haroun” is that all stories come from a single source polluted by an evil lord. The stream of stories must be stopped by pulling a cork on all the other stories that have escaped. “If this season follows this model, one of two realities will cease to exist once one is defeated,” said Brush, referring to the sideways flashes.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that Locke is going to be defeated or be balanced out. Whoever is left on the island will be the sacrifice that saves the world.”

loS aNGELES tIMEs

“Hold that door! Can you punch floor 23,115, please?”

‘Space elevator’ wins $900,000 NASA prize – space – 06 November 2009 – New Scientist.

A laser-powered robotic climber has won $900,000 in a competition designed to spur technology for a future elevator to space.

 

 

Building a space elevator would require anchoring a cable on the ground near Earth’s equator and deploying the other end thousands of kilometres into space. The centrifugal force due to Earth’s spin would keep the cable taut so that a robot could climb it and release payloads into orbit.

Though building a space elevator might require an initial investment of billions of dollars, proponents say once constructed, it would make for cheaper trips into space than is possible using rockets. But huge technological hurdles must first be overcome, including how to supply power to the robotic climber.

To that end, NASA offered $2 million in prize money in a competition called the Power Beaming Challenge, in which robotic climbers, powered wirelessly from the ground, attempt to ascend a cable as fast as possible.

Now, a robotic climber has made a prize-winning ascent worth $900,000, making it the first to win money in the competition, which has occurred annually since 2005.

Ted Semon, a volunteer with the Spaceward Foundation, a non-profit that organised the competition, and author of the Space Elevator Blog, says the feat shows space elevators are one step closer to getting off the ground. “We’ve done a lot here to demonstrate that this technology is possible,” he told New Scientist. “This is just enormously exciting.”

The winning climber was built by a team called LaserMotive, based in Seattle, Washington. Like the other two vehicles in the competition, it used solar cells to absorb energy from a ground-based infrared laser.

Unclaimed pot

On Wednesday, LaserMotive fired up its laser, powering the climber to ascend 900 metres up a cable suspended from a helicopter at Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave, California.

The climber reached the top in just over 4 minutes, for an average speed of 3.7 metres per second. The team’s climber repeated the feat at a slightly higher speed of 3.9 metres per second on Thursday.

On Friday, two other teams failed in their final attempted climbs. That means LaserMotive will receive the entire $900,000 NASA set aside for climbers that could make the climb faster than 2 metres per second.

The remaining $1.1 million in NASA prize money was reserved for climbs faster than 5 metres per second, which none of the competitors was able to achieve.

Lunar rovers

A climber entered by a team from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, stalled just a few metres up the cable in its final attempt on Friday and was unable to continue its climb.

A climber from a third team, called the Kansas City Space Pirates, also achieved only partial climbs.

NASA was expected to officially recognise LaserMotive as the winner of the $900,000 prize in an award ceremony later on Friday.

Though a space elevator remains a distant prospect, NASA is interested in wireless power transmission for other applications, like beaming power to lunar rovers travelling in shadowed craters, where solar energy is unavailable.

Rethinking relativity: Is time out of joint? – space – 21 October 2009 – New Scientist

EVER since Arthur Eddington travelled to the island of Príncipe off Africa to measure starlight bending around the sun during a 1919 eclipse, evidence for Einstein’s theory of general relativity has only become stronger. Could it now be that starlight from distant galaxies is illuminating cracks in the theory’s foundation?

Everything from the concept of the black hole to GPS timing owes a debt to the theory of general relativity, which describes how gravity arises from the geometry of space and time. The sun’s gravitational field, for instance, bends starlight passing nearby because its mass is warping the surrounding space-time. This theory has held up to precision tests in the solar system and beyond, and has explained everything from the odd orbit of Mercury to the way pairs of neutron stars perform their pas de deux.

Yet it is still not clear how well general relativity holds up over cosmic scales, at distances much larger than the span of single galaxies. Now the first, tentative hint of a deviation from general relativity has been found. While the evidence is far from watertight, if confirmed by bigger surveys, it may indicate either that Einstein’s theory is incomplete, or else that dark energy, the stuff thought to be accelerating the expansion of the universe, is much weirder than we thought(see “Not dark energy, dark fluid”).

The analysis of starlight data by cosmologist Rachel Bean of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has generated quite a stir. Shortly after the paper waspublished on the pre-print physics archive, prominent physicist Sean Carroll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena praised Bean’s research. “This is serious work by a respected cosmologist,” he wrote on his blog Cosmic Variance. “Either the result is wrong, and we should be working hard to find out why, or it’s right, and we’re on the cusp of a revolution.”

If it is wrong, we should be working hard to find out why, but if it’s right, we are on the cusp of a revolution

“It has caused quite a furore in astronomy circles,” says Richard Massey of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh in the UK. “This paper has generated a lot of interest.”

Bean found her evidence lurking in existing data collected by the Cosmic Evolution Survey, a multi-telescope imaging project that includes the longest survey yet by the Hubble Space Telescope. COSMOS, which detected more than 2 million galaxies over a small patch of sky, takes advantage of gravity’s ability to bend light. Massive objects like galaxy clusters bend the light of more distant objects so that it is directed towards or away from Earth. This effect, called gravitational lensing, is at its most dramatic when it creates kaleidoscopic effects like luminous rings or the appearance of multiple copies of a galaxy.

The sky is also dominated by the distorting effects of “weak lensing”, in which intervening matter bends light to subtly alter the shapes and orientations of more distant galaxies, creating an effect similar to that of looking through old window glass. Since galaxies come in all shapes and sizes, it is difficult to know whether the light from an individual galaxy has been distorted, because there is nothing to compare it with. But by looking for common factors in the distortion of many galaxies, it is possible to build up a map of both the visible and even unseen matterMovie Camera that bend their light.

The weak lensing technique can also be used to measure two different effects of gravity. General relativity calls for gravity’s curvature of space to be equivalent to its curvature of time. Light should be influenced in equal amounts by both.

When the COSMOS data was released in 2007, the team – led by Massey – assumed these two factors were equivalent. Their analysis revealed that gravitational tugs on light were stronger than anticipated, but they put this down to a slightly higher concentration of ordinary and dark matter in the survey’s patch of sky than had been predicted.

To look for potential deviations from general relativity, Bean reanalysed the data and dropped the requirement that these two components of gravity had to be equal. Instead the ratio of the two was allowed to change in value. She found that between 8 and 11 billion years ago gravity’s distortion of time appeared to be three times as strong as its ability to curve space. An observer around at the time wouldn’t have noticed the effect because it only applies over large distances. Nonetheless, “there is a preference for a significant deviation from general relativity”, says Bean (www.arxiv.org/abs/0909.3853).

Gravity’s distortion of time appeared to be three times as strong as its ability to curve space

At this stage, it’s hard to say what would happen if the deviation from general relativity was confirmed. Cosmologists have already considered some modifications to general relativity that could explain the universe’s acceleration(see “Not dark energy, dark fluid”).

Yet finding a deviation when the universe was less than half its current age is odd – if general relativity had broken down at some level, the signs should be most dramatic more recently, long after the repulsive effect of dark energy overwhelmed the attractive powers of gravity some 6 billion years ago.

Most astronomers, including Bean, are cautious about the results. “Nobody is yet betting money that the effect is real,” says cosmologist Dragan Huterer of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Various other explanations, like a bias in the technique used to estimate the distances to galaxies, now need to be ruled out.

Although COSMOS photographed a deep patch of sky, it was fairly small by the standards of modern surveys. This opens up the possibility that this region might be anomalous, notes Asantha Cooray, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Irvine. “You could have a massive galaxy cluster that could boost your weak lensing signal up. Or by random chance you could have more dark matter,” says Cooray, part of a team that analysed other survey data taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii and found no hint of a departure from general relativity. “The only way to take that into account is to look at data in a larger field.”

Future projects will scan the sky over much wider areas and collect images of many more lensed galaxies. For example, the Dark Energy Survey is poised to start surveying the sky from 2011 and will build up an even more precise picture of how light has been bent over the course of the universe’s history.

Whether these surveys find the effect or not, Bean hopes that her paper will generate more interest in the idea of using weak lensing to test general relativity. “I’m not putting my flag out there and saying this is a real thing,” Bean says. “We need to look at more data sets. This is really just the first stage for trying to test gravity in this way.”

Massey agrees: “At the moment we’re in the mode of just trying to hack into general relativity to find the chinks in its armour, to find any places where it might not be working.” n

Not dark energy, dark fluid

Dark energy could be weirder than we thought. Evidence that over large distances gravity exerts a greater pull on time than on space (see main story) might not necessarily suggest that the theory of general relativity is wrong. It could instead be a sign that the universe’s acceleration may require a more exotic explanation.

The simplest way of explaining the universe’s acceleration is to invoke a cosmological constant, originally proposed by Einstein to allow the universe to remain the same size in the presence of matter. This describes a universe filled with uniform, outward-pushing energy. But there are other possible explanations for acceleration.

One idea is that the entire universe exists on a membrane, or brane, floating inside an extra dimension. While matter will be confined to three dimensions, gravity could be leaking into this extra dimension. When the universe becomes large enough, this gravity could interact with matter in the brane, to produce acceleration on large scales.

A deviation could also be a sign that dark energy is a more complex “fluid” that exerts varying pressures in different directions. The snag is that telling the difference between a more exotic form of dark energy and a modification to our understanding of gravity could be tricky.

“If we were to detect a departure,” says cosmologist Alessandra Silvestriof the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we might not be able to tell whether there is a flaw in general relativity or just evidence that dark energy is “some sort of fancy fluid”.

Lynne McTaggart: Why Dan Brown’s Science Fiction Is Mostly Fact

Written by: Lynne McTaggart: Why Dan Brown’s Science Fiction Is Mostly Fact

LostSymbol“One of the main characters in Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol , is a scientist particularly interested in ‘mind over matter’: the power of thought–or intention–to affect and change the world. The ‘big idea’ in Dan Brown’s book is that science is only now providing evidence of what ancient traditions have traditionally espoused: that thought has a tangible power, enabling human beings to be creators of their own world.

I’m in a unique position to comment on this as I have extensively studied all the science Brown includes in his book, written two bestselling books on the subject and I facilitate these kinds of experiments all over the world. In fact, Brown prominently singled out me, my book, The Intention Experiment, my research and my website www.theintentionexperiment.com for special mention in the blockbuster, claiming that one of his main characters was ‘fascinated’ by my work and my web-based global laboratory, testing the power of thought.

Although Solomon is solidly fiction, the vast majority of her work is based on solid fact.
In a sizeable body of research exploring the nature of consciousness, carried on for more than 30 years in prestigious scientific institutions around the world — Princeton and Stanford Universities, the Universities of Arizona and California, and, in Europe, the Universities of Freiberg and Edinburgh –thoughts directed at targets in the laboratory have been shown capable of altering machines, cells and even complex organisms like human beings. This mind-over-matter power even seems to traverse time and space.

logoIn my own web-based experiments, we involve thousands of participants in 90 countries around the world, sending thoughts to targets created in rigorous laboratory settings at the University of Arizona, Pennsylvania State University, University of California at Davis, and other prestigious universities in Europe. Of our 19 experiments to date, 16 have shown significant positive results, six of which have been published in a scientific paper.

These studies go well beyond spoonbending tricks. This central idea, that consciousness affects matter, lies at the very heart of an irreconcilable difference between the world view offered by classical physics – the science of the big, visible world – and that of quantum physics – the science of the world’s most diminutive components. These discoveries offer convincing evidence that all matter in the universe exists in a web of connection and constant influence, which often overrides many of the laws of the universe that we used to believe held ultimate sovereignty.

At least 40 top scientists in academic centres of research around the world have demonstrated that an information transfer constantly carries on between living things, and that thought forms are simply another aspect of transmitted energy. Hundreds of others have offered plausible theories embracing even the most counter-intuitive effects, such as time-displaced influence, as now consistent with the laws of physics.

freemasonryIdeas about the power of thought are no longer the ruminations of a few eccentric individuals. They now underpin many well-accepted disciplines in every reach of life, from orthodox and alternative medicine to competitive sport. Medical scientists often speak of the ‘placebo effect’ as an annoying impediment to the proof of the efficacy of a chemical agent. It is time that we understood and made full use of the power of the placebo. Repeatedly, the mind has proved to be a far more powerful healer than the greatest of breakthrough drugs.

Frontier science is the art of inquiring about the impossible. All of our major achievements in history have resulted from asking an outrageous question. What if stones fall from the sky? What if giant metal objects could overcome gravity? What if there is no end of the earth to sail off of? All of the discoveries about the power of thought and remote influence have similarly proceeded from asking a seemingly absurd question: what if our thoughts could affect the things around us?

True science always begins with an unpopular question, even if there is no prospect of an immediate answer – even if the answer threatens to overturn every last one of our cherished beliefs. The scientists engaged in consciousness research must constantly put forward unpopular questions about the nature of the mind and the extent of its reach. In our group Intention Experiments, we have asked the most impossible question of all: what if a group thought could heal a remote target? It is a little like asking, what if a thought could heal the world?

It is an outlandish question, but the most important part of scientific investigation is just the simple willingness to ask the question. Mainstream science has grown ever more fundamentalist, dominated by a few highly vocal scientists who believe that our scientific story has largely been written. Nevertheless, a small body of resistance carries on in defiance of this restricted view. With every unorthodox question asked, with every unlikely answer, frontier sciences such as those featured in my books – and now Dan Brown’s — remake our world. May they and their ilk light our way.”
Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynne-mctaggart/why-dan-browns-science-fi_b_325906.html

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