Archive for October, 2008

Schopenhauer was right: Part 5 – A Departure From Kant

Friday, October 10th, 2008 by William Reynolds

Having been away from my Schopenhauer series for nearly 2 months, I’ve felt the longing pangs of unfinished business in my gulliver.  So it is with renewed vim and vigor that I return to the dais for yet another installment.

When I think back on my earliest encounter with philosophy, it is not dissimilar from my first brush with theology.  During the spring of my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, I became enamored of theology largely on account of dating an inordinately religious woman named S____.  My enamored fancy fell up Saint Thomas Aquinas via a medieval history course, and I soon found myself reading Summa Theologica at Coffman Union between classes.

Q:  Is there a more wearisome, and austere scholarly contribution than Summa Theologica?
A:  Not likely.

I find a it little amusing that my first forays into philosophy and theology resulted in overmatched efforts involving the aforementioned.  One might deem Socrates and CS Lewis a bit more age appropriate if not efficacious.

Immanuel Kant’s contribution to modern philosophy is well known for synthesizing empiricism and continental rationalism.  Where empiricists contended that knowledge arises from experience, and rationalists asserted that reason alone provides the basis of knowledge, Kant – in his own estimation – created a compromise between the two by presenting knowledge as function of comprehension involving 2 actors:  Concepts of the mind and phenomena.  Concepts (categories) of the mind are 4 fold with 3 aspects each – quantity (unity, plurality, totality), quality (reality, negation, limitation), relation (substance, cause, community) and modality (possibility, existence, necessity).  These concepts are universals; we cannot process phenomena (experience) without them.  For example, we cannot look at 2 apples on a table without immediately apprehending plurality.  Kant went on to refer to these categories as filters through which knowledge is made possible.

There remains in Kant the problem of things – in – themselves.  If knowledge is obtained by applying filters to phenomena arriving via our senses, then how can we ever say with certainty “That which I perceive exists as I perceive it”? On this point, Schopenhauer departs from Kant and is correct in doing so.  For Schopenhauer, the problem of knowing things – in – themselves is even deeper than Kant implied for it is not enough to merely enumerate the filters through which knowledge is made manifest without acknowledging the obvious conclusion:  That so long as filters lie between our senses and our reason, the extension of our knowledge cannot lie beyond our senses i.e. we do not know a sun “but only an eye that sees the sun…”

But we do know our bodies….

To be continued…

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SN 1987A Not So Unique Anymore

Friday, October 10th, 2008 by Bellatrix

SN 1987A was a supernova in the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy. It occurred approximately 51.4 kiloparsecs from Earth, close enough that it was visible to the naked eye however it could only be seen from the Southern Hemisphere. It was the closest observed supernova since SN 1604, which occurred in the Milky Way itself. Its brightness peaked in May of 1987 and slowly declined in the following months. It was the first opportunity for modern astronomers to see a supernova up close. But 1987A was different than most observed supernova. Most supernovas grow dimmer with the passage of time as they release their energy. But the X-ray and radio emissions from 1987A grew brighter which made it a bit of an oddity in the world of supernovas. Well it’s no longer alone in this category.

This new supernova, called SN 1996cr was singled out in 2001. It was discovered as a bright variable source in the Cygnus Spiral galaxy using the Chandra X-ray observatory. At the time it could not confidently be identified. Years later astronomers were reviewing the spectrum of the object as seen by Europe’s Very Large Telescope and interest was renewed. Astronomers began looking through the archives of data from many different space and ground based telescopes. 1996cr was identified not only as a supernova but as the brightest supernova ever seen in radio and x-ray. And like SN 1987A its brightness has increased over the years. The two look alike in many ways except that 1996cr is about a thousand times brighter.

The combined data from both supernovae have led astronomers to develop a model of what is happening with these types of explosions. Before the original star exploded, it cleared out a large area in the surrounding gas, either with strong wind or from an outburst late in its life. So the blast wave from the supernova itself could expand relatively unimpeded into this cleared area. However, once the blast wave hit the dense material surrounding it, the impact caused the system to glow brightly in X-ray and radio emission. The X-ray and radio emission from SN 1987A is probably fainter because the surrounding material is less compact.

SN 1987A used to be quite a mystery but with this new data answers are starting to come. And astronomers now think this type of pre explosion clear out could be quite common among dying massive stars. 1996cr not only helps answer questions about 1987A but also gives insight into the deaths of massive stars and the dynamics of what is exactly happening. Hopefully, now that we know what to look for, more of this types of events can be identified and studied.

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The Final Sols of the Phoenix Lander

Thursday, October 9th, 2008 by Evan Finnes

After two mission extensions, the Phoenix Lander has been on the Martian surface for five months. But with an approaching winter, the Lander is already beginning to lose power, as it must now sit in five hours of freezing darkness each day. The rover will slowly lose power until the end of October when it will no longer be able to use its robotic arm. Even though its days are numbered the Phoenix Lander is still making discoveries.

For the first time in Martian history, Phoenix observed Martian snowfall. The snow observed at an altitude of about 4km above the Lander, and it appears to have vaporized before reaching the surface. The Lander has also discovered several minerals that, on Earth, would typically form in the presence of water.

Potentially, the most exciting mineral discovered is Calcium Carbonate, (CaCO3). Calcium Carbonate is the main component of chalk, which forms in deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of calcite plates called coccoliths, which are shed from microorganisms called cocolithosphores. The discovery was made by the combined data of two instruments onboard the Phoenix Lander. The Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer,(TEGA), discovered that Carbon Dioxide was released from soil samples when exposed to high temperatures. The temperature at which the CO2 was released is a temperature which is known to breakdown CaCO3 into CO2. The Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, (MECA), found concentration of (Ca) in the soil; this confirms the presence of CaCO3 in the soil. The presence of Calcium Carbonate does not immediately imply that chalk or microorganisms have been discovered, future tests will have to be done to determine if the CaCO3 was formed due to ancient marine life.

Both MECA and TEGA discovered have smooth-faced layered particles which resemble clay. Clay minerals have a crystal structure which allows them to store water between Silicon and Oxygen Bonds. These bonds are relatively weak, this allows the bonds to expand and contrast depending on the water content of the environment they are in. These weak bonds also break easily along the bonding planes which give them the smooth and layered surfaces which were observed by the Lander.

Currently, Phoenix is beginning to analyze the soil found in a region called “Galloping Hessian”. This area is being explored because of its high concentration of salts. On Earth Salts are also commonly found in dried up sea beds. As the darkness and the cold settles in over the Lander its days of discovery are nearing an end. Because of the extreme conditions of the Martian winter, which loom in the Landers very near future, scientists do not think that they will be able to resurrect it when spring finally returns.

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Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 by Aridian PR

Terence Witt continues his podcast lecture series by discussing relativity and quantum mechanics .

Every month author Terence Witt discusses a different physics topic. In August, Witt discussed cosmology . This included the application of his Null Physics theory . In September, the discussion turned to one of the most fascinating topics of physics: black holes . The author discussed their nature and composition.

This month, a new podcast premieres on . The subject matter includes a discussion about Einstein’s special and general relativity. Witt answers questions such as what is the difference between special and general relativity as well as what aspects of general relativity are germane to the development of Null Physics.

The second topic is quantum mechanics. Witt details quantum mechanics and describes how his description of quantum phenomena differs from contemporary physics.

“I enjoy the podcast lecture series because they enable me to discuss topics I find fascinating and they give me a chance to respond to many readers’ questions,” said Witt.

The podcast premiered October 3 at . It is also available for download at

About Terence Witt
Terence Witt is the founder and former CEO of Witt Biomedical Corporation. He holds a BSEE from Oregon State University and lives in Florida. Our Undiscovered Universe: Introducing Null Physics is his first book. To read more about Terence Witt and his latest breakthroughs go to .

Victoria Lansdon
Public Relations Director
Aridian Publishing
(321) 773-3426

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