Monday, February 8, 2010

559)Geoffrey Burbidge, Towering Figure In Astronomy, Explained How People And Everything Else Are Made Of The Dust From Stars;Quotes From Blogpost 400

"In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers. Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation"(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"In fact this world is a book in which you see inscribed the writings of God the Almighty"(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet)

"O brother! You asked: What is the [meaning of] `alam [world] and what is that entity to which this name applies? How should we describe the world in its entirety? And how many worlds are there? Explain so that we may recognize. Know, O brother, that the name `alam is derived from [the word] `ilm(knowledge), because the traces of knowledge are evident in [all] parts of the physical world. Thus, we say that the very constitution (nihad) of the world is based on a profound wisdom"(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet, from his book "Knowledge and Liberation")

"Tarkib' is composition as in the compounding of elements in the process of making more complex things, that is, of adding together two things to form a synthesis, a compound. Soul composes in the sense of 'tarkib'; it is the animating force that combines the physical elements of the natural universe into beings that move and act. Incorporating is an especially apt word in this instance. It means to turn something into a body, as in 'composing'. But it is actually the conversion of an intellectual object, a thought, into a physical thing. Soul acts by incorporating reason into physical objects, the natural matter of the universe and all the things composed of it"(Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani,10th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, d971CE, from the book, 'Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary', by Paul Walker)

"Every particle of the Creation has a share of the Command of God, because every creature shares a part of the Command of God through which it has come to be there and by virtue of which it remains in being and the light of the Command ofGod shines in it. Understand this!"(Abu Yakub Al Sijistani, 10th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, d971, Kashf al-Mahjub("Unveiling of the Hidden"))

Chapter 30, Verse 27: He originates creation; then refashions it - for Him an easy task. His is the most Sublime Symbol in the heavens and the earth(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 21, Verse 30: Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together before We clove them asunder, and of water fashioned every thing? Will they not then believe?(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 51, verse 47: We built the heavens with might, and We expand it wide(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter79, verse 30: And then he gave the earth an oval form(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 86, verse 11: I swear by the reciprocating heaven.....(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

“Every one of our chemical elements was once inside a star. The same star. You and I are brothers. We came from the same supernova.”(Allan Sandage, Carnegie Observatories)

"We are stardust"(Joni Mitchell)

February 7, 2010

Geoffrey Burbidge, Who Traced Life to Stardust, Is Dead at 84


Geoffrey Burbidge, an English physicist who became a towering figure in astronomy by helping to explain how people and everything else are made of stardust, died on Jan. 26 in San Diego. He was 84.

His death, at Scripps Memorial Hospital, came after a long illness, said the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Burbidge was a physics professor there for more than four decades and lived in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego.

A large man with an even larger voice, Dr. Burbidge was one of the last surviving giants of the postwar era of astronomy, when big telescopes were sprouting on mountain peaks in the Southwest and peeling back the sky, revealing a universe more diverse and violent than anybody had dreamed: radio galaxies and quasars erupting with gargantuan amounts of energy, pulsars and black holes pinpricking the cosmos, and lacy chains of galaxies rushing endlessly away into eternity.

As the director of Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, Dr. Burbidge pushed to open big telescopes to a larger community of astronomers. As a senior astronomer at the university in San Diego, he was, to the consternation of most of his colleagues, a witty and acerbic critic of the Big Bang theory.

In 1957, in a long, groundbreaking paper in The Reviews of Modern Physics, Dr. Burbidge; his wife, E. Margaret Burbidge; William Fowler of the California Institute of Technology; and Fred Hoyle of Cambridge University — a collaboration noted by their initials B2FH — laid out the way that thermonuclear reactions in stars could slowly seed a universe that was originally pure hydrogen, helium and lithium, the simplest elements in the periodic table, with heavier elements like oxygen, iron, carbon and others from which life is derived.

Stars like the Sun burn hydrogen into helium to generate heat and light for most of their lives, until they run out of fuel and fizzle, or so the story goes. But more massive stars can go on to ignite helium to produce carbon and oxygen and so forth. Eventually the star explodes, tossing the newly minted atoms into space, where they mix with gas and dust and are incorporated into future stars. Successive generations of stars that coalesce from cosmic dust, burn and then explode would thus make the universe ever richer in heavy elements.

Allan Sandage of Carnegie Observatories, an old friend of Dr. Burbidge’s, once explained it this way: “Every one of our chemical elements was once inside a star. The same star. You and I are brothers. We came from the same supernova.”

Or as the singer Joni Mitchell put it, “We are stardust.”

In a recent interview, Dr. Sandage described the B2FH collaboration’s work as “one of the major papers of the century.”

“It changed the whole landscape of the chemical evolution of the universe,” he said.

Geoffrey Ronald Burbidge was born in 1925 in Chipping Norton in England, in the Cotswolds hills halfway between Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon. His father, Leslie, was a builder. His mother, Evelyn, was a milliner. He was an only child and the first of his family to progress beyond grammar school.

He attended the University of Bristol intending to study history, but on discovering he could stay in college longer if he enrolled in physics, he did, and found he liked it. He furthered his studies at University College, London, from which he received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1951.

Another turning point for him came when he befriended a recent Ph.D., Margaret Peachey, in a lecture course in London. An assistant director of the university’s observatory at the time, she would become a prominent astronomer in her own right. They married in 1948.

She survives him, along with a daughter, Sarah Burbidge of San Francisco, and a grandson.
It was under his wife’s influence that Dr. Burbidge became interested in the physics of stars, tagging along on observing trips as her assistant. He always joked that he had become an astronomer by marrying one.

On occasion the roles switched. Margaret’s application to observe on Mount Wilson, the mountain overlooking Pasadena, Calif., where modern cosmology began, was turned down on the grounds that there was no separate women’s bathroom. Dr. Burbidge booked the telescope time himself and his wife posed as his assistant, but they had to stay in an unheated cabin on the mountain, away from a dormitory housing other astronomers.

After stops by the Burbidges at Harvard, the University of Chicago and Cambridge University, Dr. Fowler arranged for them and Dr. Hoyle to go to Pasadena to complete the stellar nucleosynthesis work, for which Dr. Fowler was later awarded a Nobel Prize. Margaret Burbidge obtained a post at the California Institute of Technology, while Geoffrey Burbidge got a job at the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories.

The Burbidges landed at the University of California, San Diego, in 1962.

By then astronomers had been riveted by the discovery of quasars: bright pointlike objects that were pouring out radio waves and whose visible light was severely shifted toward longer, redder wavelengths, like the sound of a siren going away, indicating that they were moving away at high velocity. According to the standard interpretation of life in an expanding universe, these redshifts, as they are called, meant that quasars were at great distance.

As a trained physicist, Dr. Burbidge was one of the first astronomers to investigate what could possibly be supplying the energy of such objects. At a meeting in Paris in 1958, he pointed out that the energy requirements for radio galaxies were already bumping up against the limits of known astrophysics.

“That was a very important development,” Dr. Sandage said. In time, that line of thinking would lead to the idea that quasars and radio galaxies were powered by the gravity of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, a widely held notion today.

Dr. Burbidge, however, soon parted ways with his colleagues on quasars and indeed on the Big Bang itself. The great energies required to produce them and their smallness led him to question whether quasars really were at cosmological distances. His doubts were buttressed by observations by Halton C. Arp, now of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich, suggesting that quasars were concentrated around nearby active galaxies and might have been shot out of them.

A debate ensued, and almost all astronomers agree that it was one that Dr. Burbidge and his friends finally lost. The overwhelming consensus among astronomers is that the redshifts are what they appear to be, said Peter Strittmatter, director of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Burbidge’s skepticism extended to cosmology. In 1990, he and four other astronomers, including Drs. Arp and Hoyle, published a broadside in the journal Nature listing arguments against the Big Bang.

Dr. Burbidge preferred instead a version of Dr. Hoyle’s Steady State theory of an eternal universe. In the new version, small, local big bangs originating in the nuclei of galaxies every 20 billion years or so kept the universe boiling. To his annoyance, most other astronomers ignored this view.

In a memoir in 2007, Dr. Burbidge wrote that this quasi-steady state theory was probably closer to the truth than the Big Bang. But he added that “there is such a heavy bias against any minority point of view in cosmology that it may take a very long time for this to occur.”

Despite his contrarian ways, Dr. Burbidge maintained his credibility in the astronomical establishment, serving as director of Kitt Peak from 1978 to 1984 and editing the prestigious Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics for more than 30 years. He was “a very clear-thinking heretic,” Dr. Strittmatter said.

Dr. Strittmatter recalled that as a young astronomer he was terrified of Dr. Burbidge. “Then I learned that what he liked was a good argument,” he said.

The Kitt Peak observatory had been built with support from the National Science Foundation as a sort of counterweight to the famous observatories in California like Mount Wilson and Palomar, whose giant telescopes were privately owned and available to only a few. Dr. Burbidge believed that Kitt Peak should act more as a service facility for all astronomers.

“His idea was to open up astronomy to all qualified astronomers,” Dr. Sandage said.

Dr. Burbidge never lost what Dr. Strittmatter called a “rebel’s instinct.” Dr. Sandage said Dr. Burbidge had called him up three times a week for 40 years to argue about the Big Bang.

“He delighted in bringing up all the details that didn’t quite fit,” Dr. Sandage said. In recent years, he added, as the evidence for the Big Bang mounted, Dr. Burbidge held his ground.

“I just didn’t understand that,” Dr. Sandage said. “I often wondered if he was just arguing with me to keep on the phone.”

Easy Nash

In Shia Islam, intellect is a key component of faith. Intellect allows us to understand the creation of God: Aga Khan IV(2008)
The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)