Magnetism and the Lunar Eclipse

Being away from home and in a very difficult environment, I have had the opportunity to be mesmerised by the many loving and genuine young people that I have met, so peaceful and kind with some of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever heard. It is wonderful to see the awe in their eyes when I explained to them some of the upcoming events that our galaxy is offering. On Friday the 27th of July at 8.15pm, we will have the chance to witness the Lunar Eclipse begin, reaching full eclipse by 10.30pm and often known as ‘blood moon’ (it will go a deep burnt red due to refraction of light from our atmosphere much like a sunset) that will be the longest lunar eclipse of the century. In addition, the planet Mars will be at opposition when it will be at its most brightest and nearing its closest to earth in 15 years, accompanied with the International Space Station passing on what will be a clear summer’s evening that I will be spending on the rooftop of this dilapidated building in the heart of the Middle East. While light pollution is a significant issue, everyone will get a chance to witness naked eye these phenomenal galactic events that gives them a glimpse into a series of astronomical narratives that will no doubt provoke questions about our planet, orbits and space. These events arrive at the same time I hear the amazing news that my program working with refugees and asylum seekers back home in Australia will be funded, where I will take disadvantaged girls and young women out on hikes, camping and viewings over my telescope where I will teach them about stargazing. It has given me inspiration on my only afternoon off for the week to write this blog post!

I was asked today, “how does all this happen?” and I attempted – albeit due to language barriers rather awfully! – a brief explanation of the moon crossing the ecliptic where the Earth, Sun and Moon are aligned when the moon orbits through the shadow of Earth. Planets orbit around the sun, the gravity pulling and keeping them in orbit and gravity acts as a powerful force between two objects with a mass. You can read more on the eclipse in a previous blog post that I wrote. Magnetism is an entirely separate force despite similarities and it depends more on particular properties rather than simply mass, such as electrons and can both push and pull. Magnetism is present throughout the universe and we can experience it in many ways; when I am out hiking, my compass explains the pressure of magnetism and direction with the movement of the needle as it is attracted by the force.

There are a number of properties and varieties of magnetic forces that explain invisible fields that applies a force that influence objects or material from the magnetism. There are rules that confirm magnetic fields are dipolar and just like earth has both a north and south magnetic pole and the ‘magnetic flux’ explains how the force and attraction between the poles – usually represented by lines as visible in the image below – that can be averaged by the magnetic field and the perpendicular area the field infiltrates. Measurements of the force is determined by the mathematical formula F= qvB (Lorentz Force Law), which is the magnetic force, the charge, the velocity and the magnetic field and the unit of these field are measured in terms of Standard International (SI) units known as tesla.

Earth’s magnetic field is known as a geomagnetic field and magnetosphere the predominate reason for the magnetic field is the liquid iron core surrounding the solid inner core is the source of this phenomenon, the very ‘magnet’ where the electric currents produced by the flow of iron and other metals including nickel cause convection currents from the inertial force of the Coriolis Effect that ultimately splits the field into a surrounding force that envelops Earth and aligns back into the same direction. The changes in temperature and composition of the liquid core creating the currents that rise or sink matter all play a part in Earths magnetic field, that can be captured visually when solar winds collide with it (usually where the magnetic force is much stronger near the north and south poles) and the charged particles trapped by the magnetic field produce the aurora borealis or the aurora australis.


The picture explains the rotational poles but that their alignment geographically differs from our north and south poles on earth, whereby the magnetic south poles resides further north of Antarctic’ South Pole and quite close to the south of Australia while the north magnetic pole is closer to northern Canada and thus south of the North Pole. The magnetic lines explain the streamlined flow of the magnetic field that makes it easier to ascertain the process mathematically. Jupiter has a number of powerful toroidal magnetic fields where the intensity is said to have formed from the dynamic movements of the metallic hydrogen within; the field on the surface of the clouds is almost ten times stronger than earth’s. The Milky Way also has magnetic fields as do galaxies and the universe contains some colossal magnetic fields, where observations of galaxy clusters have found magnetic fields extending millions of light years!

The magnetic force is the attraction or the repulsion (as you experience when attempting to connect two magnets with equal poles) occurs from the magnetic field. The properties of electrical fields (pole) with a positive and negative charge differ with that of magnetic fields (dipole) despite a close correlation, because electromagnetism involves a magnetic dipole producing an electric field as it moves and conversely an electric field can produce a magnetic field meaning the difference is an elementary change in the field. A magnet does not have an electric charge as two separate poles, while a dipole interacts as a charge as visualised in the following image. What this means is that the electrical force itself behaves on a charged particle in the direction of the field and does not need motion while a magnetic force requires this motion and acts perpendicular to the magnetic field.

Gravitational fields also acts as force fields for mass and the gravitational force itself depends on the mass and the mass experiences the gravitational force. The gravitational field has a place in every direction and point in space and known by the formula g = F/m where F is the force of gravity. While this may be a brief example of the difference between magnetism and gravitational fields, it will be a wonderful experience with the full lunar eclipse and Mars showcasing the marvels of the universe over a hot, clear night here in Jerusalem!

Further Reading:

Maurizio Gasperini, Theory of Gravitational Interactions, Springer (2016) 115
Stephen Blundell, Magnetism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford (2012) 106
Anupam Garg, Classical Electromagnetism in a Nutshell, Princeton University Press (2012) 83

My Journey Into Documentary Filmmaking

It is not that I am talented in so many different fields from philosophy to law, politics to astronomy neither am I genius, far from it. Actually, I would say that I am probably one of the most stupidest people I know. I have absolutely no idea how to be social for a start, probably because I have a nobullshit policy. That is not some flamboyant dismissal due to an arrogant indifference to others, but a very simple, unassuming honesty. Men find me attractive, for instance, but how come I don’t know about it? Because they never say to me ‘I really like you’ or ‘I would love to take you out for coffee’ and instead I get men batting their eyelashes and giving me long, affectionate stares. What am I supposed to do with that? Do they behave that way because they are nervous and fear rejection, or are they nervous because their conscience is aware that they are being deceitful, the same kind of nervous someone feels before stealing?

I have long been intrigued by this inauthentic mental state that enables one to become immersed in their own imagination, creating this physical duplicate of themselves where consciousness becomes symbiotically absorbed into an illusion. It is like watching a movie or reading a fiction novel but dreamily imagining that emotional responses to this fictional reality is characteristic of something actually real. Someone who believes in their own lies. I never trust such men because they simply use women to imagine something exciting, an object where he can have one or two weeks of secretive lovemaking to escape the terrible boredom of his own life and by creating this fictional world, this duplicate existence, his consciousness becomes absorbed into the fiction that enables him to forget reality. It is only when actual reality sobers his perceptions that suddenly he tries to escape any responsibility, create excuses and justifications, even lie or slander. It would be no different for me to interact with a drunkard. They do not want to be responsible for their own actions and over and over again, repeat themselves in this cycle rather than change the source that is causing them to behave that way in the first place, whatever is going on in reality that they are trying to escape from.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

People seem to understand one another using this indirect language and are comforted by meandering communication to prevent self-defence mechanisms from being provoked. People are fictional. In the movie V for Vendetta, Evie said: “Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.” I have been quarantined from this imagined landscape and so all I see are zombies playing strange games with one another.

This leads to my flare for the theatrical – burning bridges, causing trouble, that sort of thing – because I am that artist who enjoys provoking the ego in order to expose the truth, a quiet part of me that creates the exhibition because the irrational reactions that others have in an attempt to cover the truth up verifies my position on the subject. I find myself trying to figure out what language I can speak to such people who are evidently sleepwalking, how I can ‘wake them up’ from their existential lethargy.

So, it is not that I am talented. The real problem lies in the mental energy that people exert thinking about bullshit, giving all their cognitive space to this secondary layer of reality, this unwritten and yet largely understood social identity. The constant continuity given to pointless thoughts like what other people are wearing, how they look, how they appear to others, material goods, even to the importance of how many likes one can get on Instagram or Facebook, all that takes up most of their mental energy and time, all of which are mindboggingly pointless to me.

I understand fiction. Storytelling has given me the opportunity to find that point between these two worlds, creativity breaking the barriers through this dichotomy between the real and unreal, the imagined and the actual. I have access to a way of expressing the truth using film as a medium without forcing people to decide or make them think what I want them to think, unlike Hollywood or especially contemporary Asian cinema that has a hidden political agenda within the plot to subtly coerce an opinion. Documentary film is simply as it is.


My History in Film

My first ever degree that I was accepted into was the Bachelor of Film and Television at Swinburne University. I did Studio Arts as a subject during high school and was permitted to do film, making a number of short videos predominantly of a comedic nature. To name one, Lowered Expectations, a mockumentary about a Muslim man hoping to find an obedient wife but who accidentally exposes his desire for blonde women with big breasts. This was before the September 11 attacks at a school filled with wogs or kids from an ethnic background and we instantly became a hit. No one took offence back then when Semiha borrowed her dads Muslim gear and a girl with a fake moustache played a Muslim man. Copies of the mockumentary were distributed on VHS and parents would identify us at the local shops and remark at how funny we were. It continued, a horror mockumentary called The Reebok Killer that involved Lisa’s pigeon-toe feet sprawling around school killing people, and another about a soul-searching Kung Fu expedition Triple Dragon involving violence, witches and dangerous flips off the school roof. The funniest bit was the fight scene between me and my best friend Sureyya, where I provoked her in agitation to attack me by screaming “come on!” repeatedly while ripping my clothes off as she awkwardly stared at me, until with one punch I was down. I was the funniest person in school and everyone wanted to be cast in my videos, to hang out with us spending most of our days mucking around and getting kicked out of class. I had the best time because we had a video camera.

My main project was a folio on Luis Bunuel and that introduced the movie The Obscure Object of Desire to me, which is predominately about the sexual frustration of a middle aged man. What Bunuel did, however, is challenge the symmetrical idea I had of film and his surrealism expressed through human emotions like desperation and the grotesque made me think about the diversity and opportunity I had to express myself.

Sadly, I could not undertake the degree because I could not afford the costs. For someone living independently the $2000 per semester price-tag was excessive. I could barely make ends meet, working at Hudson’s Coffee and KFC at $6-8 per hour, sometimes both on the same day where I would make coffee from 5am-1pm with a short break as I make my way to sell fried chicken from 2pm-10pm. The pleasures of having nothing, but by the time I turned eighteen I had managed to save $800 to buy my first car, a brown, beaten-up 1983 model Toyota Cressida. What a car! It was the best thing that happened to me and my friends, enabling us to travel around Melbourne and watch movies most weekends from mindless action films at Hoyts to my favourite classic at the Astor. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties in a cinema rather than a nightclub, with Yul Brynner rather than a boyfriend.


My favourite actor of all time Yul Brynner. Give me John Wayne, Orson Welles and Steve McQueen over anyone! 

I decided to pursue studies in politics and international relations instead and moved into other areas of thought including human rights law, literature and philosophy. Things started to change with my friends as I was the only one studying and our interests, well, we just became different people. It was emotionally difficult for me as I became more and more aware of how different I was and that made me feel more and more isolated. So I decided to enrol myself into a small media and film group at Latrobe University at the time and made short films as a way to interact with like minded students. It was a strange time for me. I was away from everything that I was familiar with and I could not really connect with the other students and so I expressed myself in those films in ways I did not entirely understand, trying to regulate the emotional stress of all the changes that were occurring in my life at the time. You could see the confusion through the short films that I did or the screenplays that I wrote.

It was until I took a subject in my final year with Richard Freadman called Writing Autobiography that gave me a chance to recognise that I had buried deep within me something I did not completely understand. It was clear because I was unable to write autobiography, indeed anything at all about me. I needed to fictionalise my life because whenever I thought about my reality, a feeling of anxiety and neuroticism would manifest. I could escape those feelings through fiction or when I focused on scientific facts and figures. I admitted my predicament to him after nervously reading my short story in his tiny office with other students in the class and he said that I write like a cross between Simone de Beauvoir and Voltaire, which remains the greatest compliment I have ever received. While people often assume that tortured artists are geniuses, the fact is that they are unable to adequately piece together their own story, that their creativity is really their search for an answer, but often in all the wrong ways.

While I found peace in science and where politics and philosophy satisfied my intellectual needs, hidden deep within me remained the creative pangs of a venture I had not been able to undertake. Until only a few years ago when my story within, when all that pain that I had buried finally released and I was forced to face my demons. I had to learn how to write autobiography and slowly I started to speak about my father and my mother, about my siblings and a childhood of constant belittling and harassment, to recognise that esteem, my identity and self-hood until I finally found that peace within myself. To understand how to film a documentary is to piece together a narrative, to form a person on camera and explain an identity, something that cannot be achieved without first being able to tell your own autobiography.

It seems that most of my decisions in life ended up looping in one cycle back to the very beginning, as though all the effort I made learning about so many different interests was to broaden my knowledge and understanding so I could reach this point in my life. It just suddenly made sense, my passion for justice, human rights and peace, my difficulties and overcoming them, writing autobiography, my philosophical obsession with authenticity in our thoughts and who we are, my work with children and education, all the way to what is now my creative pursuit in making honest documentaries and telling real stories.


My Panasonic GH4


As a hiker, I get the chance to meet some amazing people and luckily met a friend who was a professional in the industry where we discussed our interest in film. It was one of those moments where – without prejudice or assumptions interfering – we just both comfortably connected and talked openly about movies and cinema, about equipment and my decision to learn video and documentary as a creative pursuit on the side of my professional desires. I am already in a job that is perfect for me doing community work with children and I was recently promoted into a senior role. I feel comfortable in my job and so many people in my community know me and respect me. It seemed the right time to renew my creative side that was abandoned so many years ago. I began that process by purchasing a Panasonic GH4 that is capable enough for my amateur beginnings.

My amazing experience as an intern at Tel Aviv University and my visit to Bethlehem enabled me to form a strong partnership with a small school at a refugee camp nearby that teaches children non-violent expression through creativity and the arts, including dance, theatre, and music where talented people from all over the world come and teach the children there. My friend Phil from the United States is coming to teach children painting, and Ray from Australia is directing a play with the children. While I will be teaching women about human rights law, I will also be spending most of my time documenting the play and filming it on my Panasonic GH4, telling the story of several young students who are starring in that play. I have no political agenda, no fiction to add to the story but want to give others the opportunity to witness the real. Authenticity and honesty, love and peacefulness, human rights and justice, everything that I am is being expressed through this documentary.

I am one week away from my journey and I will write more about this in the coming weeks.

The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan

Following the painstaking experience watching Titan on Netflix last night (I highly recommend you don’t watch it) which was about the possibility of life on Saturn’ moon following an existential crises plaguing earth, out of sheer agitation I decided to look into this theme and find out more. The Cassini-Huygens mission was a seven year journey of the NASA Cassini Orbiter along with the European Space Agency’ Huygens Probe intended to travel to the Saturn system. Titan IVB-Centaur rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral carrying the orbiter and probe in 1997 and passing Venus, Earth and our moon, an Asteroid Belt and Jupiter, the Huygens Probe successfully landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005. The Cassini spacecraft also managed to capture new and detailed information and images including a number of new moons such as Methone and Pallene, as well as the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn that showcased surprising activity on Enceladus, new rings around Saturn, and a plethora of additional information not previously known by scientists. The 2 hour 27 minute descent to the surface was matched with 72 minutes on the frozen ground until contact with Cassini was lost, and the probe managed to obtain images of Titan’s geology and meteorology to reveal astonishing similarities to Earth. But is Titan really similar to Earth?

The primary scientific goal of the mission was to explore Saturn’s interior and atmosphere, the ring system and the magnetosphere and plasma environment, as well as the magnetic field and origins of Saturn. In addition, a strong focus Saturn’ second largest moon, Titan when the Huygens probe was launched into the moon through the thick atmosphere during its descent to the surface. The probe was intended to study both the atmosphere and the surface composition and contain six instruments that enabled this, such as the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI) designed to measure the electrical and physical properties of Titan.[1] It was additionally equipped with the following experiments:

Surface Science Package (SSP) aimed at determining the properties of the surface where the probe landed in order to ascertain further details of its composition and measure other aspects of the landing site.

Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer (DISR) that used sensors to uncover spectral measurements of the surface and as it descended toward the surface took images of the spectra.

Gas Chromatograph and Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) that attempted to identify gaseous atmospheric properties and captured material that it analysed as it descended to the surface.

Aerosol Collector and Pyrolyser (ACP) is a device that collected chemical and aerosol samples of the atmosphere and analysed the material taken from the atmosphere.

Doppler Wind Experiment (DWE) detected Doppler shifts that the probe experienced and caused by the atmosphere and winds was measured along with other properties through radio signals.[2]

The atmosphere of Titan contains the chemical composition mostly of nitrogen, but also a mixture of methane, ethane and other hydrocarbons, which makes the composition itself similar to that of Earth that contains 80% nitrogen,[3] particularly as it is the only other planetary body in our solar system that has evidence of liquid on the surface. Images from Cassini show how the surface of the moon contains rivers of ethane and methane and explains why it is the only moon that has clouds and a thick atmosphere. The orbital period of Titan around Saturn nears 16 days and is tidally-locked to Saturn, while the distance to the sun is almost ten times further than earth at 9.54 AU making the solar energy captured by the moon at a much lower rate, however the atmosphere enables Titan to capture solar energy. “It’s partial transparency to significant amounts of sunlight, and its high opacity to longer wavelengths… [s]ome of the energy from the Sun reaches the surface of Titan because solar radiation consists mostly of photons at near-visible wavelengths and the atmosphere is partially transparent at those wavelengths,”[4] that allows only about 10% of the energy to reach the surface. This energy is then absorbed by the surface that releases infrared heat out and back into the atmosphere that re-radiates by out and back down and the phenomenon of this greenhouse effect contributes to the temperature, which is at 92k (-180 degrees Celsius). The atmospheric pressure of Titan is 60% greater than Earth and the radius is almost half, but as the mass of Titan is 1.3452 x 10^23 kg compared to this size, the gravity cannot hold the gas and thus the atmosphere is much greater than that of Earth.

Seasonal variations to do exist on Titan and the Cassini mission aided researchers to ameliorate their understanding of the patterns of atmospheric changes, arriving on the northern hemisphere of Titan during winter.[5] Seasonal changes, however, are incredibly slow as it is driven by the eccentricity of Saturn’ 29.5 yearlong orbit around the sun, and the atmosphere responds to the effects of these changes in rising and falling temperatures as well as day to night variations. The orbital configuration has resulted in an imbalance of methane lakes and rivers in the northern and southern hemispheres of Titan that transports chemicals through evaporation and precipitation differently. The atmospheric pressure on the surface is at 1500mbar and researchers have confirmed the moon experiences cryovolcanism captured by observations from Cassini where the eruption style and composition is similar to volcanoes erupting liquid instead of lava.[6] Among the other important findings include the origins of Titan’ methane and the chemistry of the atmosphere as the gas increased during the descent of the probe, until it reached the surface when a spike was detected at almost 40% increase in methane suggest the possibility during the formation and accretion period, methane became trapped in the ice and reached the surface through cryovolcanism. In addition, radiogenic argon-40 (40Ar) was also detected that further confirms details of Titan’ interior since 40Ar can only form through the decay of potassium-40 (40K) that is found in rocks.[7]

HASI findings also enabled scientists to measure the density of the upper atmosphere and showed the thermosphere to be warmer and with a greater density. Atmospheric circulation and the transportation of heat was captured by the DISR by the “imbalance seen in the radiative flux measurements”[8] and it indicates winds verified by the probe as it encountered the flow from west to east and therefore the same direction as the rotation of Titan. Models have since showed that the captured data confirmed a reversal of direction and different points during the descent of the probe caused by temperature variations between the northern and southern hemispheres and within the Hadley cell that circulates from the north and south poles.[9] The super rotating winds measured the Doppler shift during the descent of the probe and measured large variations in wind speeds as it decreased the closer it reached the surface and the findings also suggest that Titan does not have a mesosphere as was predicted.

The atmosphere of Titan was found to be stratified comparatively to Earth’ troposphere where variations in temperature produce layers and while the amount of sunlight is minimal, the icy moon still contains wind and clouds, where clear by images by Cassini indicate massive dunes on the surface.[10] This provides greater details of the structure of the atmosphere including its temperature, as the DISR captured images of the surface and terrain and showed a plateau of dried river beds and lakes with narrow channels and dendritic networks that parallel the fluvial configuration you’ll find on Earth particularly erosion which DISR detected and indicative of such activity. Buried below the icy surface together with the discovery of what is known as Schumann resonance, very low radio signals in the atmosphere (around 36 Hertz) and for such signals to be reflected, “an ocean of water and ammonia which is buried at a depth of 55-80km below a non-conducting, icy crust”[11] could explain this.

There were a number of reasons for destroying the Cassini orbiter by incinerating it through the powerful atmosphere of Saturn. Not only will it provide additional information to scientists both gaining closer access to the rings of Saturn and the upper atmosphere that provide a glimpse of the interior structure and the opportunity to accurately ascertain the age and composition through closer inspection of the mass of the rings surrounding the planet, but also because of regulations vis-à-vis interplanetary contamination. The preservation of the integrity of the solar system in order to prevent and potentially damage both other planets and our own has led to all spacecraft to undergo sterilisation processes to avoid microbe contamination, particularly of planets or moons that may be capable of organic habitat. The Cassini spacecraft detected a number of new finds on Enceladus that verifies the possible conditions for contamination of microbes from Earth. Cassini itself captured vapour being released from Enceladus that confirmed an oceanic subsurface Knowing that the craft itself has a maximum output of fuel, to prevent any risk of it contaminating the integrity of the moon, scientists decided to plan the death of the device.[12]

While Titan does have similarities to Earth, particularly for having a thick atmosphere and a high percentage of nitrogen, but a number of other missing or differing constituents make these similarities marginal at best. The benefits of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan enabled scientists to gain further insight to clarify these terrestrial and atmospheric differences.

[1]Fulchignoni, M., Ferri, F., Angrilli, F. et al. Space Science Reviews (2002) 104: 395.
[2] Patrick Irwin, Giant Planets of Our Solar System: Atmospheres, Composition, and Structure, Springer Science & Business Media (2003) 330
[4] Athena Coustenis, Fred Taylor, F. W. Taylor, Titan: The Earth-like Moon World Scientific (1999) 62
[5] Ingo Müller-Wodarg, Caitlin A. Griffith, Emmanuel Lellouch, Thomas E. Cravens, Titan: Interior, Surface, Atmosphere, and Space Environment, Cambridge University Press (2014) 215
[6] R. M. C. Lopes, Cryovolcanism on Titan: New results from Cassini RADAR and VIMS:
[7] Robert Brown, Jean Pierre Lebreton, Hunter Waite, Titan from Cassini-Huygens, Springer Science & Business Media (2009) 182
[8]Ibid., Titan from Cassini-Huygens, 345

The ‘Seeds’ of Super Massive Black Holes

Stellar black holes are scattered throughout the universe, formed under the right conditions when stars reach the end of their life cycle as it collapses into itself when it no longer contains the fuel to counteract the pressure of gravity and resist compression. In order to produce a black hole, the exploding star would need to have a mass greater than our sun (at least twenty times greater) so that there is enough material – which is dispersed following the supernova – to form a black hole and will continue to grow as it consumes material such as gas and stars that draws them into the dense space. Super Massive Black Holes (SMBH) are comparatively galactic monsters that live in the centre of most galaxies and while their origins are indeed more difficult to ascertain, a number of theoretical possibilities continue to elude astronomers. Do they having the humble beginning by starting as stellar black holes that grow over billions of years through accretion and even mergers with other black holes? The confirmation that Sagittarius A* located 26,000 light years away is a SMBH located in our very own galaxy and a number of techniques have been used to ascertain its position, particularly through comparative observations found in the properties of other host galaxies and quasars. The recent quasar, J1342+0928, has given astronomers a glimpse into the possible causes of such huge SMBH.

Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes through his general theory of relativity, however it was not until Sir Martin Rees proposed the idea that extremely massive black holes could exist within the Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN)[1] of our own and most galaxies. His theory pieced together a detection of an unknown radio source by Bruce Balick and Robert Brown at the centre of the Milky Way and a possible demonstration that the object with such powerful gravitational force could be caused by an SMBH. AGNs are the centre of an active galaxy and depending on the properties and activity that occur within name, AGNs can be called Quasars, Seyfert Nuclei, Blazers, Liners, Radio Galaxies and BL-LAC objects and a number of other names that verifies the diversity of activity the centre of galaxies can have.[2] Host galaxies themselves also present unique characteristics and types including the elliptical, spiral and irregular galaxies and each have different components. Classification of galaxies was initially developed by Edwin Hubble that divided and then subdivided commonly found features that exhibit unique properties the he coded into a general system; a spiral galaxy, for instance, contains a bulge at the centre, surrounded by a halo and a disk structured as arms like spirals around the galaxy. Further classifications developed as the study of galaxies improved including de Vaucouleurs’s classification of galaxies that helped classify unusual properties or peculiarities, such as Quasars.[3]


Following Balick and Brown’ discovery, there were clear limitations to radio observations to verify whether the source was specifically a SMBH and continued efforts led to NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory to spot never before seen x-ray emissions by penetrating the galactic dust and clouds that blurred the possibility of a closer investigation to this blackness at the heart of our galaxy using radio sources, giving us more insight about the activity and behaviour of SMBH.  The Very Large Array as part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) includes 27 radio antennas configured to provide images that would give the resolution of one dish at almost 130 metres in diameter.[4] The image below is one such image taken from the observatory in New Mexio and shows a central source – now known to be Sag A* – has forced ionized gas into a mini-spiral rotating around centre and revealing the possible features of a concentration of dark matter, but whether this concentration was a SMBH was not confirmed as well as raising the question and nature of SMBH as apparently motionless. “The implied minimum dark matter density of ~3×10.9 M  pc^-3, however, still allowed a cluster of dark objects, such as neutron stars or stellar mass black holes, as one of the alternatives to a single supermassive black hole because the measurements did not force the cluster’s lifetime to be shorter than the age of the Galaxy.”[5]

Picture 1

As observations have also included evidence of the emission of radiation including Infrared, X-ray and Gamma-Ray sources, other telescopes including the Very Large Telescope (VLA) managed by the European Southern Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and the 10m W. M. Keck I telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii has mapped the orbits of stars and objects that are within one parsec (about 3.26 light-years) of the central dark object, enabling astronomers to measure the mass of Sgr A* utilising Kepler’s Laws that calculate the length of time it takes for the orbiting object to encircle the galactic centre together with the semi-major axis, leading astronomers to believe the centre of our galaxy is contained by a SMBH equivalent to 4 million solar masses.[6] “Orbits are derived simultaneously so that they jointly constrain the central dark objects properties: its mass, its position, and, for the first time using orbits, its motion on the plane of the sky.”[7] This is because the dark central object has a powerful mass within such a small radius nearing 100 AU (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun or about 150 million kilometres) that suggested dark matter to be confined in a space of 0.015pc ruling out the possibility of a cluster of stellar black holes as the source, leading to the conclusion that it is a SMBH. The Fermion Ball Hypothesis offers an alternative possibility for the blackness problem as it attempts to explain the supermassive dark object at the centre to be a ball of self-gravitating, non-interacting, degenerate fermions.[8] Fermion balls may have been formed in the early universe and studies show the analysis of the orbits of stars S0-1 and S0-2 around Sgr A* was initially consistent to the FB scenario as the pressure from the degeneracy maintains a balance with the gravitational attraction to the fermions.[9] Continued observations of the S0-2 orbit revealed that a mass of 3.6‡ 0.6 x 10^6 MΘ  is located within a sphere radius of 0.6mps Sgr A*[10] that excludes the possibility of the FB Hypothesis as such a mass density would impact on the fermion ball particles.

These advances in telescopic technology including the use of Very-Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) techniques that captures high resolution radio sources from different locations before being combined into following the meticulous measurement of time differences all fed into one central location on a supercomputer with enormous data capacity to enable this to occur efficiently have recently made it possible to capture the shadow of the event horizon, the boundary surrounding the SMBH. As the diameter of the telescope increases the resolution, sensitivity and baseline, and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and the Global mm-VLBI Array (GMVA) combines multiple telescopes around earth to simulate the power that an earth-sized telescope would capture. The boundary surrounding a black hole is an event horizon because while gravity is very strong, objects can still escape from the gravitational pull and thus energy can be detected near the horizon while anything that travels beyond that an observer cannot see.[11]

The Event Horizon Telescope and Global mm-VLBI Array on the Eart

Quasars are the most luminous AGN and they have a very strong correlation to SMBH as the latter is required to give Quasars the immense power that they project. “Quasars rank amongst the most luminous sources of radiation in the universe and are believed to be powered by SMBH.”[12] M–σ or the M-Sigma relation indicates a correlation between the mass of a SMBH and the stellar velocity dispersion in their host galaxies[13] and confirm SMBH to be a fundamental element of host galaxies with Quasars. Quasars are said to exist in predominantly larger galaxies during the active phase of gas accretion and therefore the early life of a galaxy, where particles or matter are heated and accelerated away like a jet or stream of light from the ionization around the boundary of an SMBH at velocities almost at the speed of light and emitting powerful energy and therefore luminosity that exceeds all the sources of light within the entire galaxy.[14] In December 2017, the most distant quasar J1342+0928 at a redshift of z=7.54 was found and provided a glimpse into the cosmological timeline by using Planck parameters that confirmed the age of galaxy to be barely 690 Myr after the big bang[15] with an SMBH that contains a mass of 8e8 Msun (800 million solar masses!).[16] The existence of a SMBH during such an early epoch of the universe’ existence confirms a number of models about how black holes can grow to such a supermassive size as it captures nearby material and ultimately engines the power of a quasar. The standard view is that following supernova explosions, the gravitational interactions form stellar black holes and continue to grow through mergers and accretion, however the accretion theory does not explain the SMBH in quasars so old and powerful as J1342+0928 known as the quasar seed problem, indicating that the conditions to have formed them must have been achieved by direct collapse.[17] A large ‘seed’ to form a black hole as colossal as 100,000+ solar masses and therefore thousands of times bigger than black holes shaped by a supernova is possible in the right conditions during the early universe as it required an equally colossal star collapse that would supress star formation because the temperature of the ultraviolet photos ensure that the surrounding gas remains hot enough. Stars usually form when the cloud cools as the gas is dispersed, but the conditions in the early universe confirm that such a supermassive ‘seed’ could be possible before it begins to attract matter and gas to grow over billions of years into its colossal size.[18]

The catalyst that enables supermassive black holes to form remains unconfirmed, but as technology enables astronomers to locate and verify new hints about the galaxy, we are inching closer and closer to verification of theories


[1] Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei: Past, Present and Future Research, Ferrarese & Ford 2005, Space Science Reviews, Volume 116, Issue 3-4, pp. 523-624
[2] Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei: Past, Present and Future Research, Ferrarese & Ford 2005, Space Science Reviews, Volume 116, Issue 3-4, pp. 523-624
[3] Sidney Van den Bergh, Galaxy Morphology and Classification, Cambridge University Press (1998) 13
[5] Stellar Orbits around the Galactic Center Black Hole, Ghez et al. 2005, The Astrophysical Journal, v.620, p.74
[6] Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei: Past, Present and Future Research, Ferrarese & Ford 2005, Space Science Reviews, Volume 116, Issue 3-4, pp. 523-624
[7] Stellar Orbits around the Galactic Center Black Hole, Ghez et al. 2005, The Astrophysical Journal, v.620, p.74
[8] Neven Bilic, Supermassive Fermion Balls and Constrains From Stellar Dynamics Near Sgr A∗:
[10] Siegfried Röser, From Cosmological Structures to the Milky Way, John Wiley & Sons (2006) 196
[11] Jim Al-Khalili, Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines, Taylor & Francis (2016) 64
[12] Formation of z~6 Quasars from Hierarchical Galaxy Mergers, Li et al. 2007, The Astrophysical Journal, v.665, p.187
[13] Raphael Sadoun, M- sigma relation between SMBHs and the velocity dispersion of globular cluster systems: arXiv:1204.0144 [astro-ph.CO]
[14] Andrew C. Fabian, Active Galactic Nuclei: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Apr 27; 96(9): 4749–4751.
[15] Fulvio Melia, J1342+0928 Confirms the Cosmological Timeline in R_h=ct: arXiv:1712.03306 [astro-ph.CO]
[16] E. Bañados,, An 800 million solar mass black hole in a significantly neutral universe at redshift 7.5: arXiv:1712.01860 [astro-ph.GA]
[17] Bhaskar Agarwal, Formation of massive seed black holes by direct collapse in the early Universe, Dissertation (2013) pp 24
[18] Silvia Bonoli, Massive black hole seeds born via direct gas collapse in galaxy mergers: their properties, statistics and environment,

A Non-Conceptual Nature of Time?

The problem of time and whether it exists has remained a controversial topic in physics, cosmology, and philosophy. Is time relational as Leibniz espouses and therefore measured only in relation to motion, or is it absolute as Newton envisioned, where space and time were fundamental and independent from our perception of it? If we consider time to be real and not an illusion, then time is change, whether these changes are stretched out through our vast universe over billions of years to the immediacy of a thought, though both exist at the very same time in the future. We dream for a few seconds but wake believing we had spent hours in the dream. And yet, there is the past, of consciousness, or is the fundamental nature of reality a series of snapshots contained within the now?

And how is time-consciousness relevant to moral philosophy or love? I have often reiterated that love is eternal. As such, the concept of time became the source of my phenomenological struggles since our perceptions, our experience, thoughts and thus our very being are stitched into the fabric of temporality and all contribute to the essential structure of consciousness, of our perceptions, memory and our imagination and as such preserve our capacity to reach a truthful understanding of our identity. To be honestly self-aware at an atomic level. While I once perhaps held a transcendental-cognitive view that time was merely a construct that my mind created similar to the views held by Kant[1] (however indecipherable his language on the topic!), that our mind contains the necessary conditions to experience the properties of space and time but that experience conforms to our subjective deductions of reality. We must cognitively have innate categories prior to our temporal experience of space and our mind and senses merely verify whether such categories apply to the objects we experience. Think of it as a type of encoded, genetic molecule that converts information as part of a linear yet evolutionary process that continues to expand; without the source of this initial encoded information, there would be no capacity to acquire the preliminary information or experience. A type of thermodynamic entropy of sorts, but the chaos of the immeasurable absorption of information causes the brain by design to transfer large quantities of data and store it elsewhere, for the sake of argument we’ll say our subconscious and instead leaves a residue or ‘picture’ of reality. This is perhaps an unsatisfactory or at the very least an entirely broad understanding of Kant’ view on transcendental deduction. For Kant, ‘categories’ or pure concepts of understanding are unified with our sensory experience; that some apriori concepts (knowledge independent of particular experience) apply to some experiences, but not verified by any empirical means.

When I grew up, I came to realise that such a view on time-consciousness was somewhat unsatisfactory, or at the very least obscure. Whilst I enjoyed traversing through the maximally supersymmetric realm of epistemological foundationalism, the typological concept of time and the relationship between experiences in what ‘appears’ to be linear properties or a temporal order came to be of interest. According to John Ellis McTaggart, there exists a series of temporal positions that appear to us prima facie, namely ‘Earlier’ or ‘Later’ where each position is either ‘Past’, ‘Present’ or ‘Future’ although “an event, which is now present, was future and will be past.”[2] It is because time requires these distinctions that according to McTaggart proves time itself is unreal. In addition, there exists two distinct modes labelled as A-series – where there are a series of positions from past [near and far] to present to future [near and far] – and B-series, which are a series of positions that run from earlier to later.[3] The properties [A-properties] being past, being present and being future, with the relations [B-relations] as being earlier than, being later than, and being simultaneous with.[4] Change is essential to the A-series but an inherent contradiction exists with the properties and relations of change events from future, to present, to past where time appears to be severed from a spatial order of events and instead comprised of timeless properties. Basically, the future, the present and the past are incompatible and yet time itself possesses all three. This infinite regress of temporal attributions or tensed predications is the paradox.[5]

This is the point where I began to muse the possibility that time is an illusion and in doing so, the threads that bounded my existence to reality were suddenly disrupted and I instantaneously collapsed into an anti-social state where ‘vanity’ and ‘existentialism’ seem to consume me within a vortex of a gaping infinity. But, I digress. Phenomenologically, temporality is a requisite for experience, to perceive, to concern or reminisce. Husserl purports that consciousness can intentionally transcend itself, that from infancy we perceive but it is not yet assigned a referent and by referent I mean that the perception of an object is synthesised into a coherent pattern that we ‘see’ and interpret, making perception as interpretation, that the structure of consciousness captures and characterises the modes of temporal objects.[6] From a biological perspective, the brain as a neurological mechanism or tool constructs an interpretation in order to articulate the nature of the physical world, thus reality could remain within the boundary of mere psychology and language [I am planning on writing more on Kant and Deleuze in the near future]. If in the physical world time is an illusion, it seems only plausible and somehow my initial liking to transcendental deduction and the conceptual and subjective formation of time becomes appealing once more. While the brain is fundamental in our capacity to experience the world, the problems of the ‘illusory’ remain. Schrödinger wrote of the paradox of the mechanistic idea of the material world, where atomic singularity is met with a conceived negative tension with the senses:

“Galenus has preserved us a fragment (Diels, fr. 125), in which Democritus introduces the intellect (dianoia) having an argument with the senses (aesthesis) about what is “real”. The former says: ‘Ostensibly there is colour, ostensibly sweetness, ostensibly bitterness, actually only atoms and the void,’ to which the senses retort: “Poor intellect, do you hope to defeat us while from us you borrow your evidence? Your victory is you defeat.”[7]

Thus any objective description of colour – for instance through an electro-magnetic wave – cannot adequately provide an explanation of the conceivable characteristic of it. Is my experience of the taste of pomegranate the same as everyone else? It reminds me of a memory I have when in grade four, where I was sitting at a table with others in my class as we were colouring in and I lifted up the turquoise ‘connecter pen’ with pure joy at both the fact that such a texter could connect with other texters but also the colour, which struck me and in my excitement I turned to the girl next to me to inform her of this blissful opportunity to share the experience I was having. Her perfunctory glance before shrugging her shoulders and turning back to her rather aggressive colouring confused me entirely and I thought to myself that maybe she sees the colour brown, a colour I found aesthetically ugly and had someone shown me that colour that I too would have done the same. I remember actually trying to think of how that would be possible, how I saw turquoise and she saw brown but somehow she was taught to think that the actual, concrete “brown” was called turquoise and though we both saw different colours were somehow tricked into believing the names of those different colours were the same. The problem confused me at that point and I left it at that, a theory I later came to realise was spectrum inversion. There was also a part of me that was sceptical of her state of mind, but physical properties as represented by the object are subjective and that “[w]hat is purely intuitable is not communicable,”[8] thus qualia is subject to intrinsic properties and subjective sensations simply cannot be expressed. Galileo observed that whether a ship was still or moving at a constant speed, the effects on board the ship – such as throwing an apple from one person to another – would be exactly the same and thus, “Galileo had shown that terms like “moving” and “standing still” are merely labels.”[9]

For Einstein, space and time are relative and all events are imbedded into a four dimensional space-time continuum, as said by Minkowski: “Henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.”[10] It quite simply just exists, the past and the future stretched on a timeless ‘line’ but rather than delving into the special theory of relativity or time dilation, the relativity of simultaneity returns us back to the question of past, present and future and that it is dependent on the reference frame of an observer. As said by Einstein: “Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated.“ Accordingly, the past, present and future exist simultaneously and that the illusion is to believe that they are separate; to a degree, those moments in time are states that spatially contract to make one whole rather than a static ‘now’.

Quantum mechanics and the theory of time incite discussions of determinism and free will, an especially important debate for me when examining love and our moral obligations. Einstein himself was a determinist and that future events is determined by preceding events, famously stating, “God doesn’t play dice.” This causal completeness purports that therefore a killer will kill at [x] point in time and since it is determined, therein exists no morality or culpability. Newtonian physics fall under the same deterministic umbrella, Halley’s comet an example of causal relationship between the past and nature. According to Michio Kaku, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle challenges nomological determinism since behaviour cannot be absolutely predictable and as such, there exists some free will. From a scientific perspective, this appears inadequate, however, observing the psychological  or cognitive and therefore the perceptions of the individual agent, it naturally leads us to the problem of consciousness. When we observe consciousness at biological level, to be sure determinism plays a major role in mind and ultimately experience, and so it should. Taking a compatabilist approach, why exactly do we need to separate the two? To me, free-will, however, is an extension of determinism, evolutionary to a degree in that competency is designed in the brain and evolves. Having the cognitive capacity to question, to ultimately think “why” in a calculated effort is the very experience of free-will because the moment one questions, they are in a position of responsibility for what comes after, for the deliberation that evolves at conscious level. The obligation rests in our capacity to share information through language and as such, free-will and moral responsibility function mutually.

With the inherent contradictions that capture the enigmatic nature of time, it seems that I would be justified in believing that the universe is a pianola and we are stitched into the musical roll of an eternal pneumatic mechanism that automatically plays “The King Clown” by Joseph Kiefer over and again and yet somehow deluding myself into believing that the opinions of others regarding the way that I dress is existentially relevant. The only element that is disturbing is the possibility of negating free will and yet if ‘now’ no longer exists, then neither does time and thus, neither does existence and therefore death.


[1] A. C. Ewing, Kant’s Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, New Series, Vol. 32, No. 125 (Jan., 1923), pp. 50-66
[2] J. Ellis McTaggart, The Unreality of Time, Mind 17 (68):457-474 (1908)
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] L. Nathan Oaklander, Quentin Smith, The New Theory of Time, Yale University Press (1994) 195
[6] W. Hopp, Husserl on Sensation, Perception, and Interpretation, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38:2 (June 2008) 219-246
[7] Erwin Schrodinger, What is Life? Cambridge University Press (1967) 163
[8] Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic, Northwestern University Press (1980)
[9] Dan Falk, In Search of Time, Thomas Dunne Books (2008) 156
[10] W.L. Craig, Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity, Springer Science & Business Media (2013) 191


The Cycle of our Nature

Everything in the universe has a life cycle, where nature destroys and renews itself cyclically. For instance, stars are made from a fusion between two hot and light gases – hydrogen and helium – whereby in the core the former burns into helium and gradually begins to form heavier elements such as carbon.[2] Eventually, our sun – considered a yellow dwarf – will become an inert white dwarf but will continue to emit light as it will fall below the main sequence and it emits light as the temperature is still hot due to the presence of nuclear fuels until depleted, becoming black dwarf. Depending on the mass of the star, once hydrogen has been depleted the core will begin to contract [the helium is displaced and the outer surface begins to expand due to the thermal pressure and this contraction loses elements or materials] while the surface expands, leading them to either become supernova or a planetary nebula [the remnants of a supernova] though there are other types of nebulae such as protoplanetary that is causally a result of stars shedding or detaching from the surface.[3] Stars are also born in nebulas. The cycle eventually moves towards – as mentioned – white dwarfs, but also neutron stars where protons and electrons collide to form neutrons from the collapsed core of the star.

That is, a black hole, which is formed when matter is squeezed into a very dense space as a result of the stars’ supernova where the force of gravity is so great that it, collapses into itself. And yet, it is from a black hole that stars are born, driving the galaxy into continuity.[4] Life itself – along with a range of other factors – is only possible through the light emitted by stars, our very own sun a g-type main-sequence star with a temperature between 5,000 – 6,000K.[5] We can see stars such as Bellatrix with our naked eyes despite its distance of 244.6 light years[6] or 76.92 parsecs because it is 8.6x solar masses or the equivalent of 1.671 × 10^31 kg and is 3.16 times bigger than our sun with a radius of almost 2,200,940.06km.[7] All the stars will collapse and form into new ones and when our sun dies, our planet – which is pulled by the gravity of the sun – will ultimately float aimlessly into space until captured by the gravity of another star and be renewed once more. Perhaps intergalactic travel is the very reason why we have life on earth in the first place.

The cycle of our very own seasons is continuously rounded and renews every six months due to our perfectly precise location in orbit around the sun along with our moon orbiting around earth. The celestial sphere is an imaginary radius with earth fixed at its centre (since the earth’s position or axis remains fixed) and earths equator is aligned with the celestial equator, as are both the north and south celestial poles. Since the rotational tilt of the earth that sits at precisely 23.5° and its rotational axis around the sun, the ecliptic plane – which is the path of the sun in this sphere – as it travels and rotates the northern and southern hemispheres are doused with either more or less sunlight.[8] You can see this movement or rotation when the sun rises in the morning or sets in the evening, or as the stars move when gazing at night. The earths circular orbit around the sun and distant stars is the sidereal period, a sidereal day or for a star to reach the same point is 23.56 hours and they rise earlier each night [up to four minutes] as the earth rotates around the orbit.[9] Equinoxes are the rotation when the ecliptic touches the equatorial plane, and a summer solstice contains the most amount of daylight while the winter solstice contains the least or shortest amount.

Everything in nature is a cycle. Everything is born and then dies. As people living in a world where everything dies, including us, well then in that vanity what could possibly be our purpose?

Our capacity for self-reflective practice and to reverse the temporal arrow of time as our experiences remain locked in our memories, this pattern illustrates a cyclic repetition where we are able to study ourselves objectively. When one thinks of scientific cosmology, it is the study of the large, the whole and by understanding the origin, one is able to articulate the evolution and the properties that make up the universe. If we think of cycles, is the universe itself going to infinitely expand or is it going to collapse into itself, or is our universe only one of many ‘pocket’ universes each dying and creating new ones?

Hegelian cosmology is just that, a reality that “is composed of a plurality of finite persons”[10] inclusive of ourselves; being a finite property, our lives are finite and ultimately determined, however rather than analysing the individual components or properties that make our lives, the objects and properties become the tools that enable consciousness, allowing us to transcend and become aware of our personhood as being part of a greater ‘whole’ which, to Hegel, is a supreme Being; that is a part of God.[11] God has no contingent parts and consequently “God is Spirit.”[12] Questioning the nature of reality and being a part of this whole rather than an individual component, immortality or an eternal continuum becomes possible and that our very lives are also non-temporal.[13] If we are a part of something greater than ourselves, our death becomes meaningless and in our lives our only purpose or obligation is to the well-being of that which is greater than ourselves. It being practical, a moral application. ‘I’ may die, but ‘we’ continue to exist.

While it may appear that I am endorsing an atheistic naturalism, I must clarify that I am not here attempting to identify the existence of God through this thesis, but rather attempting to explicate why the transcendence of consciousness enables us to realise the significance of being morally responsible; what becomes our ‘purpose’ and St. Thomas Aquinas also developed a similar thesis that argued a continued existence is dependent on beings.[14] McTaggart who critiqued Hegel’ cosmology, believed that the “passing of time is an illusion, and that nothing ever changes.”[15] His interpretation of time involved a series of contrasts and incompatible determinations between past, present and future through two notions entitled A series and B series and that the world is composed of nothing but souls.[16] But questions of time are impossible to empirically verify and therefore should only be viewed symbolically as representative of our subjective place in an external world.

While we may be a product of a whole, where exactly do ‘we’ or our personhood – free will – come into being? It is sufficient to say that freedom is an extension of determinism, that we possess the faculty through rational knowledge and will that enables us the capacity to become self-aware. That is, consciousness is a product of this deterministic social whole, which is why those that attain this transcendence become aware of their moral obligations and the value of virtue. There is a temporal anomaly here: we get caught or stuck repeating the same mistakes and fail to transcend to this freedom or autonomous consciousness. When I think about individual experiences broken into a shattered narrative that I attempt to dissect and understand, who I am is intricate and complex but when I view myself as part of a sum of all my experiences, there is no longer a temporal domain, but I exist as I am in present and thus view the product of my being as part of the whole. Upon doing so, what I am becomes clear.

[1] Ecclesiastes 1:2
[2] John R. Gribbin, The death of the Sun, Delacorte Press (1980) 180
[3] John Bally, Bo Reipurth, The Birth of Stars and Planets, Cambridge University Press (2006) 181
[5] Gunter Faure, Teresa M. Mensing, Introduction to Planetary Science: The Geological Perspective, Springer Science & Business Media (2007) 461
[8] William Millar, The Amateur Astronomer’s Introduction to the Celestial Sphere, Cambridge University Press (2006)
[9] Ibid.
[10] Jacob Gould Schurman, James Edwin Creighton, Frank Thilly, Gustavus Watts Cunningham, The Philosophical Review, Cornell University Press, Volume 12 (1903) p 189
[11] M.J. Inwood, Hegel: Arguments Philosophers, Routledge (2013) 202
[12] John 4:24
[13] G. E. Moore, “Mr. McTaggart’s “Studies in Hegelian Cosmology”” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 2 (1901 – 1902), pp. 177-214
[15] Brian Garrett, What is this Thing Called Metaphysics?, Routledge (2007) 76

Thermodynamics and the Arrow of Time

To say an ‘Arrow of Time’ is to say that time itself is linear and one-directional. In thermodynamics, the second law dictates that everything moves in one-direction from a state of order towards disorder and entropy is the statistical measurement of this asymmetry in an isolated system. The universe is, for instance, this isolated system and as a consequence it is impossible to reverse this arrow of time and travel backwards just as much as the continuity of disorder will never decrease. Newton’ equations and other laws in physics, however, can be reversed and thus this ‘order’ is arrived from a state of equilibrium as it moves forward toward disorder. We simply understand the past through entropy and yet, while this may be statistically correct, the Poincare’ recurrence theorem in open systems prove that thermodynamic system may actually be paradoxical. The theorem purports that after a length of time the system may return back to its original or close to its original state, such a hot cup of tea eventually reaching room temperature. Statistical physics that attempts to measure the universe as a finite and objective physical entity together with the evolutionary patterns of nature, reached an impasse since the cosmological theory of the universe with the Big Bang started with chaos and eventually formed this smooth, ordered state that works in contradiction to the second law leading to an reductio ad absurdum. Unless we assume that the big bang itself occurred as a ‘fluctuation’ – indeed, a very rare and unique one – and is thus an addition contained inside one meta-system where a number of universes exist. Ludwig Boltzmann did not believe in the reversibility of statistical thermodynamics; I become conscious or self-aware and thus experience a non-equilibrium with nature or the external world because of a random fluctuation in my brain, but intelligence is only available in my brain and so why everything else in this system – body, organs – and thus consciousness is a random fluctuation. If I want to bake a cupcake, the ingredients – such as flour – can be reversed back to wheat, soil, planet earth, milky way, universe etc &c., – and rather than saying that I need a universe to create a cupcake or that I need to create a universe to make a cupcake, it is easier to explain that a cupcake is made from a random fluctuation. Ultimately, however, we do need a universe, milky way, planet earth, soil, wheat, and flour to make a cupcake and thus every system requires time to move forward as well as backward.

Boltzmann’s entropy formula S = k log W describes the statistical domain of thermodynamic systems [log itself aids with minimising the size of the universe with W being the number of microstates giving a probability at macro-level][1] and that entropy is conserved by the monotonic function of ordered sets as the microstates increase. Any corresponding change at macro-level is causally connected to a change with a microstate within the system, but this interconnected dependence between the two states naturally shows that the macro-state itself contains maximal entropy. That is, thermodynamic equilibrium of system is consistent with the constraints of the second law of thermodynamics and that the formula is the statistical evidence of this. In its simplest, ergodicity is merely analogous to ascertaining the averages of behaviour within a system, measuring transformations, recurrence, arbitrary convergence etc &c. or quite simply the dynamics and that over time the probability of visiting every required state occurs. A macro-state in equilibrium is largest in size, thus over ‘time’ [that is, time-average probability] the system spends visiting the phases as it reaches this equilibrium and thus maximum entropy is, well, ergodic. Even so, it is still incredibly difficult resolving arbitrary estimates coupled with the fact that cases involving the second law of thermodynamics do not necessarily require erodicity at all. But when considering the constituency of time in this framework, the idea that the direction or arrow of time will eventually lead a system toward maximum entropy and ergodicity may, in reverse, explain time.

Ergodicity itself is somewhat Epicurean, not to say that it has any connection with Epicurus’ Nature of the Cosmos, but rather the philosopher himself – more notably adhered by Lucretius – believed that it is a mark of an intelligent mind to think of multiple possibilities – from the absurd to the rational – so as to identify and explain a solution to a cosmological problem;[11] even occasionally, multiple descriptions can prove a theorem adequate and inadequate at the same time. Lucretius’ cosmological phenomenology is based on his thought experiment regarding infinite space, whereby should one travel to the end of the universe and throw a spear through it, what would happen to the spear?[12] Either it will hit it and fall, or it will go through the boundary – that the boundary of a finite universe is ultimately illusory – and toward another space that we are not aware of; what this would mean is that all possibilities and possible worlds outside of the finite space that we understand is actually possible.

Therefore the universe is infinite and according to Newton this must be true; his failure, however, was the proposition that the universe was static purported by his assumption of the stars being fixed relative the inertial frame, namely because the distribution of mass would be unstable. The problem of symmetry, however, regarding a state where the universe is accelerating, is how the direction for which this acceleration is determined. In order to substantiate the validity that there is actually a physical system, the universe requires isotropy and since we can acknowledge that when we look out to the universe that in every direction we can observe the CMB radiation, one can conclude that it may very well be a symmetric space.


Nevertheless, for the sake of avoiding the likelihood of falling down the existential rabbit hole before becoming overwhelmed by the vanity of, well, everything, let us assume that the universe can be modelled as a dynamical system, contained in an isotropic, homogenous and maximally symmetric but statistically within a finite structure and governed by an arrow of time, and in doing so the analysis of erodicity and entropy within such a model seem almost possible. The problem is that, if the arrow of time purports that time itself is moving forward in one direction, that the universe is expanding alongside time as it reaches its maximum state of high entropy, it would mean that therefore the universe had a past and so to not defy the second law of thermodynamics, the early universe would have to be at a state of low entropy. In an environment where the observable universe is much denser or smaller in the past – since the universe is expanding – it would logically imply that it was hotter and the pull stronger. How is it that in that macroscopic parameter consisting of a hot and dense environment instead was smooth and cool? This does not make sense since the early universe was in a state of equilibrium which, given the calculations above, must uphold the thermal law of being in a state of high entropy. In addition, temporal asymmetry works in contradiction to the second law of thermodynamics; motion cannot function without time, it would be like matter frozen in a dimensionless space or swallowed in a blink beyond the event horizon. Time’ arrow works in a manner that directs motion forward, evolutionary of sorts and adapts to the processes within its environment in an attempt to find a state of equilibrium.

In classic thermodynamics, the joule [free] expansion – where within an adiabatic container enclosed with monatomic gas molecules and no energy or thermal properties – the gas densely kept to one side of the container with a closed partition between another empty container that has been vacuumed of any properties at all and therefore completely empty,[13] when the partition is opened and consequently the gas in one container increases in volume and expands into the other, the pressure of the gas that had been densely kept in the other compartment diminishes [like blowing up a balloon with helium gas and then letting it go; the gas is released from the balloon with the rubber shell flying about the place in an awkwardly loud and flatulent manner]. There is no pressure or work, ΔU = q + w = 0 but nevertheless there were changes [in consideration of ideal gas][14] in temperature and therefore PV=nRT whereby the pressure and volume equates to a constant of the gas and the temperature, so the first law regarding the conservation of energy in thermodynamics remains valid. The ergodic hypothesis by Boltzmann was formulated to prove in principle the determination of the distribution of gas molecules and their kinetic speeds in his equipartition theorem, which is mathematically ascertaining the energy of any given physical system through the distribution of generalised coordinates and momenta. The second law of thermodynamics contains the interesting problem vis-à-vis this very blog post, that the law governs the exchange of thermal contact and gradual arrangement toward a fixed equilibrium; that is, the natural evolution of any given system is determined to a state of equilibrium. Once the partition is open and the gases are dispersed, they spontaneously find a state of equilibrium and do not randomly paste themselves to the ceiling of the container etc &c. How can a hot cup of tea become lukewarm as it cools to room temperature and thus asymmetric as it reaches a state of equilibrium with its environment? Or is that a deductive fallacy? Could travel back in time? One of my favourite paradoxes from All You Zombies[15] is as follows:

A baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She falls in love with him. But just when things are finally looking up for Jane, a series of disasters strike. First, she becomes pregnant by the drifter, who then disappears. Second, during the complicated delivery, doctors find that Jane has both sets of sex organs, and to save her life, they are forced to surgically convert “her” to a “him.” Finally, a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby from the delivery room.

Reeling from these disasters, rejected by society, scorned by fate, “he” becomes a drunkard and drifter. Not only has Jane lost her parents and her lover, but he has lost his only child as well. Years later, in 1970, he stumbles into a lonely bar, called Pop’s Place, and spills out his pathetic story to an elderly bartender. The sympathetic bartender offers the drifter the chance to avenge the stranger who left her pregnant and abandoned, on the condition that he join the “time travelers corps.” Both of them enter a time machine, and the bartender drops off the drifter in 1963. The drifter is strangely attracted to a young orphan woman, who subsequently becomes pregnant.

The bartender then goes forward 9 months, kidnaps the baby girl from the hospital, and drops off the baby in an orphanage back in 1945. Then the bartender drops off the thoroughly confused drifter in 1985, to enlist in the time travelers corps. The drifter eventually gets his life together, becomes a respected and elderly member of the time travelers corps, and then disguises himself as a bartender and has his most difficult mission: a date with destiny, meeting a certain drifter at Pop’s Place in 1970.

The question is: Who is Jane’s mother, father, grandfather, grand mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson? The girl, the drifter, and the bartender, of course, are all the same person. These paradoxes can made your head spin, especially if you try to untangle Jane’s twisted parentage. If we draw Jane’s family tree, we find that all the branches are curled inward back on themselves, as in a circle. We come to the astonishing conclusion that she is her own mother and father! She is an entire family tree unto herself.

Quantum entanglement is an interesting method of understanding the arrow of time in this context. The uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics[16] asserts that measuring the position of a particle and its momentum is never accurate, furthered in confusion with evidence that sometimes interaction between two particles merge or entangle to form a ‘oneness’ that dictates the momentum and position one to the other that they are no longer two separate particles – though physically it is so –nevertheless communicating invisibly one to the other as a combined force. It is of interest to me where the interaction prior to the amalgam between the particles peaked at a derivative equal to zero, namely the very point where particles enjoin to become a state where they can no longer be classified as autonomous. Reaching this balance of connectivity between particles from a pure particle state to a combined oneness in perfect equilibrium as it relaxes into its new and unchanging form is the real parameter that works comparatively to the notion of thermal equilibrium and thus the evaluation of thermodynamic properties.

It appears that no matter where I am in the universe, I will still get the same answers to the same equations and the physical world would appear to me, well, to be the same in every direction. That is, the symmetry of the expansion rate is homogenous confirmed to a degree through Hubble’s Law, which is the velocity between two galaxies being equal to the Hubble parameter times the distance V=Hod and verifies that objects would appear to be expanding outward relative to the observer; the measurement of the radial velocity determined by the redshift. Thus galaxies are moving away and galaxies even further still at a much faster rate explained by the fact that should both the source and the observer be stationary, there would be no time differentiation or delays viz., the time for the wavelength to reach the observer, hence the Doppler effect. When thinking about the cosmological redshift, whereby light that has been emitted from a distant galaxy reaches us on earth, calculations of the spectral features of photons namely λ =h/p requires attentiveness on how the light itself will shift from the frequency it had when emitted to the frequency we measure when receiving it, that is, the momentum and time it takes for the wavelength to reach the observer, the evolution of this process changes as the photons are stretched. Physicists have thus determined that the universe is not only expanding but also accelerating.

It would seem that the universe is expanding whilst galaxies themselves remain static. When photons emitted from a distant galaxy reach us the observer, the distance and velocity of the wavelength with the time it takes to us from the source is quantified by the Hubble constant times the distance between galaxies. The asymptotic nature of ∆t would purport that the atomic properties in space and thermal energy interact with time in a manner that will continuously interfere in the process of reaching absolute zero, and as stated previously, even a vacuum state still contains energy even though extremely low. Measuring time during the inflationary epoch remains questionable, even with the capacity to measure the smallest possible unit of time through Planck [5.39 × 10^-44 s] whereby probabilities are the only reality attributed to the questionable state of time. Perhaps the total entropy in the universe is already infinite, in which case it was always infinite.

How we experience time remains an unexplained phenomenon. If, indeed, time must move both forward and backward, perhaps the equilibrium that I experience in ‘now’ is really both past and future working in perfect uniformity rather than some random existential fluctuation. Perhaps my past can speak to my future and that is the mystical experience of prophesy? That there is no ‘beginning’ or ‘end’ except this singularity itself, namely God who is ‘alpha and omega’? Or maybe the universe is simply a brain!


[1] Don S. Lemons, A Student’s Guide to Entropy, Cambridge University Press (2013) 72
[2] See Lucretius’ cosmology and use of the Principle of Plentitude briefly explained in Michael J. White, Agency and Integrality: Philosophical Themes in the Ancient Discussions of Determinism and Responsibility, Springer Science & Business Media (2012) 4
[3] Philip de May, Lucretius: Poet and Epicurean, Cambridge University Press (2009) 27
[4] Clement John Adkins Equilibrium Thermodynamics, Cambridge University Press (1983) 162
[5] Peter Atkins, Julio de Paula, Ronald Friedman, Physical Chemistry: Quanta, Matter, and Change, OUP Oxford (2013) 576
[6] David Darling, The Universal Book of Mathematics: From Abracadabra to Zeno’s Paradoxes, John Wiley & Sons (2004) 139. See Robert Heinlein’ All You Zombies
[7] K.V.S.Gnaneswara Rao, Engineering Physics, S. Chand Publishing (2008) 38