Saturday, August 26, 2006

imho Structure of the Solar System 2


I wrote my previous blogpost before I read that day's paper, in which the astronomers' decision/criteria for demoting Pluto was reported. I think they screwed it all up by positing an idiotic distinction between "planets" and "dwarf planets." What's the point? That's like calling uranium atom a full atom because it has scores of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and a hydrogen atom a "dwarf atom" because it only has a single proton and a single electron. They both embody the core structure of the same class of objects, but differ primarily according to scale (one's much larger than the other, and has the structural differences associated with that larger scale, but they're brethren in the periodic table). Absurd.

The core distinction that the astronomers should have keyed on was the scale of orbs, and the structural properties that come with increasing scale. I touched on that in my blogpost, but I thought of a few additional structural properties of larger orbs. Here they all are:
  • Appear: larger orbs tend to be more visible to our eyes and/or telescopes
  • Clear: larger orbs tend to clear out their orbital paths through centripetal gravitation and collisional deflection
  • Commandeer: larger orbs tend to capture other orbs and lock them as satellite into perpetual slave orbits
  • Sphere: larger orbs tend to take on spherical shape from force of own gravity
  • Atmosphere: larger orbs tend have the gravity necessary to hold any gaseous emissions as perpetual atmospheres
  • Magnetosphere: larger orbs tend to have hotter, more liquid interiors that generate the ongoing magnetic fields that cause such phenomena as atmospheric auroras
I rather like the "phase-change" ring structure I proposed for the solar system as a whole, because it essentially defines "strata" into which orbs have settled due to the dynamics of the whole system's evolution. It occurred to me that there's one critical ring that I left out from my blogpost (apologies to the late Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash on the following):
  • Ring of Fire: one or more fiery orbs (i.e., suns) at the heart of the system; a single fiery orb is essentially a rotating ring around the center of gravity of the system as a whole; this ring structure is more apparent in a binary-star or multi-star system, in which all those orbs orbit around the common center of gravity; it's even more apparent when we look at the billions of fiery orbs that revolve around the center of gravity (i.e., black hole) at the heart of the galaxy
  • Ring of Rock: one or more rocky orbs (with/without their own ice, liquid/ocean and gas/atmosphere overlays and satellites)
  • Ring of Gas: one or more gaseous orbs (with/without their own rock, gas, and/or ice satellites)
  • Ring of Ice: one or more icy orbs (with/without their own rock and/or gas constituents and/or satellites)
There. I'm glad I was able to write that all down in one coherent place. I don't care what these orbs get named, or whether they are ever named. Have we named all the stars in the universe? Why should we? Isn't it better to simply open our minds to understanding them on their own terms?


Friday, August 25, 2006

imho Structure of the Solar System 1


Does anybody else feel that this current controversy over the status of Pluto is a bit silly? Official planets? Give me a break. That's not science.

This is a perfect time for us all to revisit the structure of solar systems. There are of course many types of objects that orbit stars. What we have traditionally called "planets" are just one type.

On the flight home yesterday from a conference, I quickly sketched out my ideas for rethinking the structure of this and other solar systems. We'll get to the status of Pluto in just a bit.

A solar system is simply a collection of objects that orbit one or more stars (yes, there are binary star systems, and I'm holding open the possibility of triple-star quadruple-star, and even more star-packed systems). That being said, the basic entities and relationships in solar systems are as follows:

  • Star(s): the orbital hub(s) of all objects in the system; example, our sun
  • Orb(s): the objects that orbit the star(s) of the system; may be massive or minute; examples, our "planets," comets, asteroids, microscopic particles floating in the void between other orbs
  • Ring(s): the discrete paths of grouped, like orbs in the system; examples, the inner "ring of rock" around our sun (primarily including Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and the asteroids); the "ring of gas" (including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune); the "ring of ice" (including Pluto, Charon, Xena, the Kuiper Belt, and whatever else lies out beyond)
  • Satellite(s): orbs that orbit other orbs in the system; examples, the moons the various planets; the rocks, dust, and other objects in the rings of various planets

Notice that I've defined "orbs" to include all objects, from microscopic to Jupiter, that directly orbit the sun, or that orbit other orbs. The crux of the debate over Pluto is whether it's too small to qualify as a "planet" in the traditional sense of that word. Well, maybe we shouldn't using that word any more--it's become an arbitrary, non-scientific term that obscures and distorts the actual structure of the solar system.

But before we do that, let's ask why we have historically latched onto this term. What exactly is a planet, in the traditional sense of the word? My sense is that it's an orb that is massive enough to a) appear in telescopes, b) has great enough gravitation to pull its shape into a sphere, and c) has essentially cleared out its own orbital path, through centripetal attraction and collisional deflection, of all other nearby orbs.

"Appearing," "sphering" and "clearing" are the three core criteria for "planets," in the traditional sense of the word. Orbs smaller than a given threshold don't appear, sphere, and clear; rather, they simply jostle with other dark, irregular orbs into their aggregated rings; those aggregated rings and some of their constituent objects (e.g., asteroid belt) may occasionally appear, but they may occasionally clear out their own tiny neighborhoods (after all, these are huge empty neighborhoods, for the most part), but they don't sphere.

So never fear. To sum up: Pluto is the first-discovered orb in the ring of ice that satisfies all three planetary conditions: appear, sphere, and clear. Comets appear and clear, but aren't massive enough to sphere on their own (yes, they occasionally get whittled through solar wind into roughly spherical shapes, but that's a transient condition of the ever-changing ever-changing shape of an ever-diminishing object).

Matter settled.


Friday, August 18, 2006

poem University


Pray for the school year
and the grind may it ground us
in unearthly smarts.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

self Dec 2005 BCR article on Content-Aware Network Appliances


Created content found on publisher's site for free:

Good piece. Glad I did it.