Entropy in Space Seen at All Scales
Entropy at all scales: clearly seen. Creation of order: not so much.
Watch 2000+ Comets Whiz Past The Sun (Space.com): An animation by Goddard Space Flight Center based on actual data from the SOHO observatory shows over two thousand comets whizzing past the sun from 1998 to 2010. Many sungrazers never made it past the sun. The narrator mentions high-speed comets that are “getting fried in the process” of their sungrazing journey.
Comet surface changes before Rosetta’s eyes (PhysOrg): Rosetta is watching Comet 67P undergo rapid change as it nears perihelion: “spectacular changes are proceeding extremely rapidly” the article says. Material that is being lost is never coming back to build up the comet.
‘Chaos’ on Jupiter’s Moon Europa Perhaps Spawned by Comet Crashes (Space.com): Chaos and crashes are not the ingredients for sublime order. Every impact crater is a scar from a destructive process. Science writer Charles Q. Choi found a way to insert “life” into the tragedy by pure faith.
Surprisingly fast motions in a dust disk (Nature): We mentioned this paper a couple of days ago (10/19/15): a dust disk around star AU Microscopii is casting off clouds of material so rapidly that changes are clearly visible after only a few years of observation.
Discovery of two close-in exoplanet companions sheds new light on planet formation (PhysOrg): Wendy Bowyer tries to put a happy face on a sad story: two hot Jupiters are in the last phases of their death spiral. Bowyer shares how nobody expected gas giants to orbit so close to a star as they have been seen by the hundreds in the last 20 years. It led astronomers to theorize that they are being pulled in to destruction. But even this story is weak: “The whole theory of planet formation and migration is not totally understood,” a U Michigan astronomer confesses.
A disintegrating minor planet transiting a white dwarf (Nature): A small body with a comet-like tail shows it is disintegrating. “This system provides further evidence that the pollution of white dwarfs by heavy elements might originate from disrupted rocky bodies such as asteroids and minor planets.” Science Daily refers to this as a “Death Star” caught in the act of destroying a planet. “We’re watching a solar system get destroyed,” a Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer says. Elisabeth Gibney at Nature News has an artist conception of the doomed planet; “Dead star caught eating planetary leftovers” is her headline.
Can you kill a star with iron? (PhysOrg): Polluting a star with iron may lead to its demise, since a star cannot burn it. It’s like toxic waste to a star, leading it to explode in a supernova, Fraser Cain explains.
Astronomers catch a black hole shredding a star to pieces (Science Daily): X-rays are signatures that a star has been torn apart by a black hole, and that’s what the Chandra X-ray Observatory appears to have witnessed once again. “The black hole tears the star apart and starts swallowing material really quickly,” one of the orbiting telescope’s observers says.
Pufferfish planets could explain how hot Jupiters get so big (New Scientist): Is this a plausible theory for the origin of gas giants? Joshua Sokol compares young planets to the fish that rapidly expand their size. “They would be the pufferfish of outer space,” he jests. “A long-standing riddle would be solved if planets of the same mass as Jupiter balloon in size when their host stars reach the end of their lives.” Either way, it’s a death knell for the planet and for the star. Does it help matters to claim that “gas giants are born large”? Most of the article is speculation.
Cosmology: A story of cosmic proportions (Nature): Michael Turner, in his review of two new big-bang-to-life books, waxes eloquent for a moment dreaming about science’s “adventure” to discover how nature overcomes entropy, then suddenly comes crashing back to reality in the last sentence of this quote:
In a chapter called ‘The cosmic imperative’, Baggott implies that the evolution of life is an inevitable consequence of chemistry, despite our not knowing precisely how it occurred. This reminded me of physicist Murray Gell-Mann’s dictum “Everything not forbidden is compulsory” (borrowed from novelist T. H. White), which describes the importance of symmetry principles in particle physics: they set the basic rules, but not the detailed outcomes. A rich set of rules (think chess) can lead to complex and interesting outcomes. I would take this further: the Universe is governed by physical laws that permit a rich set of behaviours, resulting in its inevitable evolution from vacuum energy to quark soup, nuclei and atoms, all the way to the emergence of life and self-awareness. But that does not explain where space, time and the laws came from, or why there is something rather than nothing.
What are white holes? (PhysOrg): Fraser Cain discusses theoretical opposites to black holes that expel matter instead of gobbling it up. “White holes are completely theoretical mathematical concepts,” he quips. “In fact, if you do black hole mathematics for a living, I’m told, ignoring the mass of the singularity makes your life so much easier.” Could white holes explain the universe? “Another interesting idea put forth by physicists, is that a white hole might explain the Big Bang, since this is another situation where a tremendous amount of matter and energy spontaneously appeared.” That only pushes the origin back a step, if one begins with nothing. Out of nothing, nothing comes. Beginning with a Creator, however, makes the idea of White Hole Cosmology intriguing, as some creationists have postulated.
Secular materialists dream wistfully of a universe where stars are born, planets are born, and everything comes up roses. What they observe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics at work: destruction, disruption, dissipation, chaos—all moving inexorably toward Heat Death. Fraser Cain’s speculation about white holes and the big bang also violates the First Law of Thermodynamics. It takes directed energy to overcome the universal application of the Second Law. When the Michael Turners that you know go off into their evolutionary trances, have them read Granville Sewell’s article on ENV and watch his video clip at the end. Intelligence can create information and direct energy for growth. Raw energy alone, like a bull in a china shop, is destructive.