******************************************************************************* * Item 1. updated 17-JUN-1993 by SIC An Introduction to the Physics Newsgroups on USENET --------------------------------------------------- The USENET hierarchy contains three newsgroups dedicated to the discussion of physics and physics-related topics. These are sci.physics, sci.physics.research, and alt.sci.physics.new-theories. Sci.Physics is an unmoderated newsgroup dedicated to the discussion of physics, news from the physics community, and physics-related social issues. Sci.Physics.Research is a moderated newgroup designed to offer an environment with less traffic and more opportunity for discussion of serious topics in physics among experts and beginners alike. The current moderators of sci.physics.research are John Baez (firstname.lastname@example.org), William Johnson(email@example.com), Cameron Randale (Dale) Bass (firstname.lastname@example.org.Virginia.edu), and Lee Sawyer (email@example.com). Alt.sci.physics.new-theories is an open forum for discussion of any topics related to conventional or unconventional physics. In this context, "unconventional physics" includes any ideas on physical science, whether or not they are widely accepted by the mainstream physics community. People from a wide variety of non-physics backgrounds, as well as students and experts in all areas of physics participate in the ongoing discussions on sci.physics and sci.physics.research. Professors, industrial scientists, graduate students, etc., are all on hand to bring physics expertise to bear on almost any question. But the only requirement for participation is interest in physics, so feel free to post -- but before you do, please do the following: (1) Read this posting, a.k.a., the FAQ. It contains good answers, contributed by the readership, to some of the most frequently asked questions. (2) Understand "netiquette." If you are not sure what this means, subscribe to news.announce.newusers and read the excellent discussion of proper net behavior that is posted there periodically. (3) Be aware that there is another newsgroup dedicated to the discussion of "alternative" physics. It is alt.sci.physics.new-theories, and is the appropriate forum for discussion of physics ideas which are not widely accepted by the physics community. Sci.Physics is not the group for such discussions. A quick look at items posted to both groups will make the distinction apparent. (4) Read the responses already posted in the thread to which you want to contribute. If a good answer is already posted, or the point you wanted to make has already been made, let it be. Old questions have probably been thoroughly discussed by the time you get there - save bandwidth by posting only new information. Post to as narrow a geographic region as is appropriate. If your comments are directed at only one person, try E-mail. (5) Get the facts right! Opinions may differ, but facts should not. It is very tempting for new participants to jump in with quick answers to physics questions posed to the group. But it is very easy to end up feeling silly when people barrage you with corrections. So before you give us all a physics lesson you'll regret - look it up. (6) Don't post textbook problems in the hope that someone will do your homework for you. Do you own homework; it's good for you. On the other hand, questions, even about elementary physics, are always welcome. So if you want to discuss the physics which is relevent to your homework, feel free to do so. Be warned that you may still have plenty of work to do, trying to figure out which of the many answers you get are correct. (7) Be prepared for heated discussion. People have strong opinions about the issues, and discussions can get a little "loud" at times. Don't take it personally if someone seems to always jump all over everything you say. Everyone was jumping all over everybody long before you got there! You can keep the discussion at a low boil by trying to stick to the facts. Clearly separate facts from opinion - don't let people think you are confusing your opinions with scientific truth. And keep the focus of discussion on the ideas, not the people who post them. (8) Tolerate everyone. People of many different points of view, and widely varying educational backgrounds from around the world participate in this newsgroup. Respect for others will be returned in kind. Personal criticism is usually not welcome. ******************************************************************************* * Item 2. Gravitational Radiation updated: 4-May-1992 by SIC ----------------------- Gravitational Radiation is to gravity what light is to electromagnetism. It is produced when massive bodies accelerate. You can accelerate any body so as to produce such radiation, but due to the feeble strength of gravity, it is entirely undetectable except when produced by intense astrophysical sources such as supernovae, collisions of black holes, etc. These are quite far from us, typically, but they are so intense that they dwarf all possible laboratory sources of such radiation. Gravitational waves have a polarization pattern that causes objects to expand in one direction, while contracting in the perpendicular direction. That is, they have spin two. This is because gravity waves are fluctuations in the tensorial metric of space-time. All oscillating radiation fields can be quantized, and in the case of gravity, the intermediate boson is called the "graviton" in analogy with the photon. But quantum gravity is hard, for several reasons: (1) The quantum field theory of gravity is hard, because gauge interactions of spin-two fields are not renormalizable. See Cheng and Li, Gauge Theory of Elementary Particle Physics (search for "power counting"). (2) There are conceptual problems - what does it mean to quantize geometry, or space-time? It is possible to quantize weak fluctuations in the gravitational field. This gives rise to the spin-2 graviton. But full quantum gravity has so far escaped formulation. It is not likely to look much like the other quantum field theories. In addition, there are models of gravity which include additional bosons with different spins. Some are the consequence of non-Einsteinian models, such as Brans-Dicke which has a spin-0 component. Others are included by hand, to give "fifth force" components to gravity. For example, if you want to add a weak repulsive short range component, you will need a massive spin-1 boson. (Even-spin bosons always attract. Odd-spin bosons can attract or repel.) If antigravity is real, then this has implications for the boson spectrum as well. The spin-two polarization provides the method of detection. Most experiments to date use a "Weber bar." This is a cylindrical, very massive, bar suspended by fine wire, free to oscillate in response to a passing graviton. A high-sensitivity, low noise, capacitive transducer can turn the oscillations of the bar into an electric signal for analysis. So far such searches have failed. But they are expected to be insufficiently sensitive for typical radiation intensity from known types of sources. A more sensitive technique uses very long baseline laser interferometry. This is the principle of LIGO (Laser Interferometric Gravity wave Observatory). This is a two-armed detector, with perpendicular laser beams each travelling several km before meeting to produce an interference pattern which fluctuates if a gravity wave distorts the geometry of the detector. To eliminate noise from seismic effects as well as human noise sources, two detectors separated by hundreds to thousands of miles are necessary. A coincidence measurement then provides evidence of gravitational radiation. In order to determine the source of the signal, a third detector, far from either of the first two, would be necessary. Timing differences in the arrival of the signal to the three detectors would allow triangulation of the angular position in the sky of the signal. The first stage of LIGO, a two detector setup in the U.S., has been approved by Congress in 1992. LIGO researchers have started designing a prototype detector, and are hoping to enroll another nation, probably in Europe, to fund and be host to the third detector. The speed of gravitational radiation (C_gw) depends upon the specific model of Gravitation that you use. There are quite a few competing models (all consistent with all experiments to date) including of course Einstein's but also Brans-Dicke and several families of others. All metric models can support gravity waves. But not all predict radiation travelling at C_gw = C_em. (C_em is the speed of electromagnetic waves.) There is a class of theories with "prior geometry", in which, as I understand it, there is an additional metric which does not depend only on the local matter density. In such theories, C_gw != C_em in general. However, there is good evidence that C_gw is in fact at least almost C_em. We observe high energy cosmic rays in the 10^20-10^21 eV region. Such particles are travelling at up to (1-10^-18)*C_em. If C_gw < C_em, then particles with C_gw < v < C_em will radiate Cerenkov gravitational radiation into the vacuum, and decelerate from the back reaction. So evidence of these very fast cosmic rays good evidence that C_gw >= (1-10^-18)*C_em, very close indeed to C_em. Bottom line: in a purely Einsteinian universe, C_gw = C_em. However, a class of models not yet ruled out experimentally does make other predictions. A definitive test would be produced by LIGO in coincidence with optical measurements of some catastrophic event which generates enough gravitational radiation to be detected. Then the "time of flight" of both gravitons and photons from the source to the Earth could be measured, and strict direct limits could be set on C_gw. For more information, see Gravitational Radiation (NATO ASI - Les Houches 1982), specifically the introductory essay by Kip Thorne. ******************************************************************************* * Item 3. ENERGY CONSERVATION IN COSMOLOGY AND RED SHIFT updated: 10-May-1992 by SIC ---------------------------------------------- IS ENERGY CONSERVED IN OUR UNIVERSE? NO Why? Every conserved quantity is the result of some symmetry of nature. This is known as Noether's theorem. For example, momentum conservation is the result of translation invariance, because position is the variable conjugate to momentum. Energy would be conserved due to time-translation invariance. However, in an expanding or contracting universe, there is no time-translation invariance. Hence energy is not conserved. If you want to learn more about this, read Goldstein's Classical Mechanics, and look up Noether's theorem. DOES RED-SHIFT LEAD TO ENERGY NON-CONSERVATION: SOMETIMES There are three basic cosmological sources of red-shifted light: (1) Very massive objects emitting light (2) Very fast objects emitting light (3) Expansion of the universe leading to CBR (Cosmic Background Radiation) red-shift About each: (1) Light has to climb out the gravitational well of a very massive object. It gets red-shifted as a result. As several people have commented, this does not lead to energy non-conservation, because the photon had negative gravitational potential energy when it was deep in the well. No problems here. If you want to learn more about this read Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's Gravitation, if you dare. (2) Fast objects moving away from you emit Doppler shifted light. No problems here either. Energy is only one part a four-vector, so it changes from frame to frame. However, when looked at in a Lorentz invariant way, you can convince yourself that everything is OK here too. If you want to learn more about this, read Taylor and Wheeler's Spacetime Physics. (3) CBR has red-shifted over billions of years. Each photon gets redder and redder. And the energy is lost. This is the only case in which red-shift leads to energy non-conservation. Several people have speculated that radiation pressure "on the universe" causes it to expand more quickly, and attempt to identify the missing energy with the speed at which the universe is expanding due to radiation pressure. This argument is completely specious. If you add more radiation to the universe you add more energy, and the universe is now more closed than ever, and the expansion rate slows. If you really MUST construct a theory in which something like energy is conserved (which is dubious in a universe without time-translation invariance), it is possible to arbitrarily define things so that energy has an extra term which compensates for the loss. However, although the resultant quantity may be a constant, it is of questionable value, and certainly is not an integral associated with time-invariance, so it is not what everyone calls energy. ******************************************************************************* * Item 4. EFFECTS DUE TO THE FINITE SPEED OF LIGHT updated 28-May-1992 by SIC ---------------------------------------- There are two well known phenomena which are due to the finite speed of electromagnetic radiation, but are essentially classical in nature, requiring no other facts of special relativity for their understanding. (1) Apparent Superluminal Velocity of Galaxies A distant object can appear to travel faster than the speed of light relative to us, provided that it has some component of motion towards us as well as perpendicular to our line of sight. Say that on Jan. 1 you make a position measurement of galaxy X. One month later, you measure it again. Assuming you know it's distance from us by some independent measurement, you derive its linear speed, and conclude that it is moving faster than the speed of light. What have you forgotten? Let's say that on Jan. 1, the object is D km from us, and that between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1, the object has moved d km closer to us. You have assumed that the light you measured on Jan. 1 and Feb. 1 were emitted exactly one month apart. Not so. The first light beam had further to travel, and was actually emitted (1 + d/c) months before the second measurement, if we measure c in km/month. The object has traveled the given angular distance in more time than you thought. Similarly, if the object is moving away from us, the apparent angular velocity will be too slow, if you do not correct for this effect, which becomes significant when the object is moving along a line close to our line of sight. Note that most extragalactic objects are moving away from us due to the Hubble expansion. So for most objects, you don't get superluminal apparent velocities. But the effect is still there, and you need to take it into account if you want to measure velocities by this technique. References: Considerations about the Apparent 'Superluminal Expansions' in Astrophysics, E. Recami, A. Castellino, G.D. Maccarrone, M. Rodono, Nuovo Cimento 93B, 119 (1986). Apparent Superluminal Sources, Comparative Cosmology and the Cosmic Distance Scale, Mon. Not. R. Astr. Soc. 242, 423-427 (1990). (2) Terrell Rotation Consider a cube moving across your field of view with speed near the speed of light. The trailing face of the cube is edge on to your line of sight as it passes you. However, the light from the back edge of that face (the edge of the square farthest from you) takes longer to get to your eye than the light from the front edge. At any given instant you are seeing light from the front edge at time t and the back edge at time t-(L/c), where L is the length of an edge. This means you see the back edge where it was some time earlier. This has the effect of *rotating* the *image* of the cube on your retina. This does not mean that the cube itself rotates. The *image* is rotated. And this depends only on the finite speed of light, not any other postulate or special relativity. You can calculate the rotation angle by noting that the side face of the cube is Lorentz contracted to L' = L/gamma. This will correspond to a rotation angle of arccos(1/gamma). It turns out, if you do the math for a sphere, that the amount of apparent rotation exactly cancels the Lorentz contraction. The object itself is flattened, but then you see *behind* it as it flies by just enough to restore it to its original size. So the image of a sphere is unaffected by the Lorentz flattening that it experiences. Another implication of this is that if the object is moving at nearly the speed of light, although it is contracted into an infinitesimally thin pancake, you see it rotated by almost a full 90 degrees, so you see the complete backside of the object, and it doesn't disappear from view. In the case of the sphere, you see the transverse cross-section (which suffers no contraction), so that it still appears to be exactly a sphere. That it took so long historically to realize this is undoubtedly due to the fact that although we were regularly accelerating particle beams in 1959 to relativistic speeds, we still do not have the technology to accelerate any macroscopic objects to speeds necessary to reveal the effect. References: J. Terrell, Phys Rev. _116_, 1041 (1959). For a textbook discussion, see Marion's _Classical Dynamics_, Section 10.5.