Friday, 30 March 2018

A Galaxy Without Dark Matter

"Dr Collins is cautious to conclude that the galaxy has no dark matter halo, based on the current evidence" now that is a very polite way of saying that it is nonsense. An unusually transparent galaxy about the size of the Milky Way is prompting new questions for astrophysicists. The object, with the great name of NGC1052-DF2, appears to contain no dark matter.If this turns out to be true, it may be the first galaxy of its kind - made up only of ordinary matter. Currently, dark matter is thought to be essential to the fabric of the Universe as we understand it.


Over a decade ago, I was always very proud when shopkeepers et al would compliment me on the politeness and manners of my daughters. But I have to ask are good manners a redundant concept these days, any disagreement, it seems is the instant trigger for obscenities and vile online comments using offensive language. The expression ‘agree to disagree’ seems redolent of a distant kinder era. Universal access to social media provides an all to easy means for a great many people to launch into a tirade of vile filth and downright nastiness on Facebook and Twitter. In a very short space of time, many people have become unable to contemplate that someone might hold different views to their own and have the right to do so.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Peter Williams Sweeps to Victory

Peter Williams swept to victory in the Teignmouth Central Ward by-election held on Monday 5th February, with 438 votes, increasing the majority from 44 votes to 73 votes over the second place Conservative with 365. The by-election was caused by the sad passing of veteran Liberal Democrat councillor Roy Phillips. Roy won the Central Ward by-election held in September 2016 with daughter Julie. At the age of 91, Roy became the oldest by-election victor in the UK. Peter has pledged to work for Teignmouth and "the prosperity and happiness of our town" will be his first priority. Clearly the voters of Central Ward have rejected the proposal to build 255 houses at Higher Exeter Road. The balance between the parties on Teignmouth Town Council remains unchanged with 6 Conservatives, 5 Liberal Democrats and 1 Independent.

Billions of Exoplanets Outside our Galaxy

Have scientists found billions of exoplanets outside our Galaxy? A group of researchers at the University of Oklahoma has just announced the discovery of a large population of free-floating planets in a galaxy 3.8 billion light-years away. Their results were published February 2 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Detecting planets in our part of the galaxy using the transit method or spectrometry, however quasar microlensing is great for sampling more distant stellar populations. Quasar microlensing provides a means to probe extragalactic planets in the lens galaxy, by studying the microlensing properties of emission close to the event horizon of the supermassive black hole of the background quasar, using the current generation telescopes.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Unfair Kingdom

Labour and the Conservatives do not agree on much, but both go along with regressive changes to benefits policy, the very poorest people in our communities are going to see big cuts in their already meagre living standards. The changes to benefits policy are massively bad news for the 50%+ of families in our country who receive income from at least one state benefit. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), says that the Conservatives’ plans will reduce the net incomes of households in the bottom income decile by a tenth. The incomes of working-age families with children in the bottom decile could end up a full 15% lower - that's a big cut when you've next to nothing. Labour folk tell me they are offering a radical alternative, but let’s look at facts behind the hyperbole. The distributional impact of Labour’s tax-and-benefits policy is almost the same as the Conservatives. Labour has committed only £4.5bn saying cancelling the benefits freeze entirely is unaffordable, yet Labour has pledged about £10bn to remove university-tuition fees, a policy that heavily benefits the better-off. Now it’s not a fashionable or a vote winning thing to put families on benefits over students – it is however the right thing to do.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Unwelcome Gift

An unwelcome surprise for the new year is an planning application for 255 houses west of Higher Exeter Road (Planning Application 17/024880/MAJ) I strongly opposed the decision of Teignbridge District Council planning committee on 29th July 2014 to grant outline planning permission (14/00447/MAJ). Along with residents I was very concerned about the impact on the landscape, ecology and particularly traffic issues. I was particular concerned that the developers had included land in this application which is outside the designated TE3 in Plan Teignbreidge - the Local Plan. TE3 has been earmarked for residential development including “on-site provision of formal and informal recreation areas”. However in the application 14/00447/MAJ two recreational areas were proposed outside the north-west and south-west boundaries of the TE3 site. My reading of Plan Teignbridge is that the TE3 policy states that all the residential AND recreational facilities should be contained within the TE3 boundary. (page 125 ) Whilst it has to be accepted that Higher Exeter Road is identified for housing development in TE3 (on page 125 of Plan Teignbridge). It doesn’t mean 255 houses on this site is a forgone conclusion, albeit they will have to be some development. The planers should give Policy EN2 Undeveloped Coast (page 61 of Plan Teignbridge) greater weight in deciding this application. EN2 says: “The protection, maintenance and enhancement of the distinctive landscape and seascape character and ecological qualities of the undeveloped coast, will be a priority alongside the ecological and biodiversity considerations. Development which would have a detrimental effect on the character of the undeveloped coast and estuaries will not be permitted.” Planning Reasons for Objection: Design: The building of 255 houses in this elevated site would be overbearing and dominant in the landscape and have a major detrimental effect on the landscape (EN2 Undeveloped Coast). . Traffic and Access: The concerns about the access for traffic on/off the B3192 (Higher Exeter Road) have not been adequately addressed. The future residents on this site are likely to have between 500 – 600 cars, a recipe for gridlock on the Exeter Road as bad as the Bitton Park Road. Drainage and Flooding: The valley has many springs and streams, this used to be Teignmouth’s water supply. The valley also absorbs a lot of rain and surface water, the impact of this run-off could cause a high flood risk for homes downhill.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Bullet Cluster and Λ Cold Dark Matter (CDM)

The Bullet Cluster consists of two colliding clusters of galaxies (well strictly speaking, the name Bullet Cluster refers to the smaller sub-cluster, moving away from the larger one). Gravitational lensing* studies of the Bullet Cluster are claimed to provide the best evidence for the existence of particle dark matter. But the Bullet Cluster isn’t the incontrovertible evidence for particle dark matter that we have been told it is; it’s possible to explain the Bullet Cluster with models of modified gravity. Modifying gravity works by introducing additional fields that are coupled to gravity. There’s no reason that, in a dynamical system, these fields have to be focused at the same place where the normal matter is. Modified gravity should have a path dependence that leads to such a delocalisation as is observed in this, and other, cluster collisions. *A gravitational lens is a distribution of matter (such as a cluster of galaxies) between a distant light source and an observer, that is capable of bending the light from the source as the light travels towards the observer. This effect is known as gravitational lensing, and the amount of bending is one of the predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.