Archive for the ‘Physics & Cosmology’ Category

Islam and Science workshop presentations – London 2013

July 27, 2015

Bismillah. I have been working on the report for the “Islam & Science – The Big Questions” (of science and Islamic theology) Task Force that I convened in Istanbul in February 2015, chaired by Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, by the grace of God.  The Task Force report will be published in a few weeks, God-willing.

This reminded me that we had not sufficiently circulated the presentations from our “Islam & Science” workshop in London from 2013, some of which the current Task Force builds on.  So, here are the presentations from that workshop, as well as the final report. These should be of interest to anyone interested in cutting-edge discussions about Islam and science, religion and science, etc. University students should find these presentations a useful resource, especially for their own dissertations and theses. Enjoy!

front page of Islam Science Workshop

1- Ibn Sina – Ehsan Masood

2- Science and Religion – Jean Staune

3- Islam and Modern Science – Nidhal Guessoum: slides unavailable, but you may view a similar lecture with similar slides here (Faraday Institute, University of Cambridge)

4- 1001 Inventions Exhibition – Yasmin Khan

5- Science Policy and Politics in the Islamic World – Athar Osama

6- Theories of Evolution – Jean Staune

6a- Lying in the Name of God – Jean Staune

7- Evolution and Islam – Nidhal Guessoum: slides unavailable, but you may read one of his articles on the topic here

8- Islam and the Theory-Fact of Evolution – Usama Hasan

9- Islamic Cosmology – Bruno Guiderdoni

10- Islam Science Ethics – Usama Hasan

Islam and Science Workshop 2013 – Final Report


Islam and Science Workshop – London 2013 – A Summary

February 22, 2013

Bismillah.  This is a cross-post from

Quilliam, in association with the Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris, the American University of Sharjah and, organised and hosted an international workshop entitled “Islam and Science: A Reasoned Approach” for students and young researchers, 18th-20th January 2013 at the Institute of Education, University of London, UK.

The participants consisted of 23 people selected by submission of essays on Science-Religion topics and/or their suitability as “disseminators of ideas” following on from the workshop. These 23 participants included three people from France, the USA and Egypt. There were a total of seven speakers at the workshop: three from the UK, two from France and one each from the UAE and Pakistan.

Introduction – Friday 18th January 2013

The workshop began with a screening of the 1-hour documentary film, Science and Islam – Dialogues for the 21st Century, which was produced by the Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris and featuring interviews with 22 leading scientists, theologians, philosophers and thinkers about the interfaces between religion and science in general, and focusing on Islam in particular.

This was followed by a presentation by Ehsan Masood, author of the BBC series-accompanying book, Islam and Science: A History, a presentation entitled Ibn Sina (Avicenna) – The Man Who Knew Everything, about the life, work and influence throughout Islamic and Christian history of this early Muslim polymath. A lively discussion followed about Ibn Sina’s philosophy and methodology and the scientific rationalisation of miracles.

Saturday 19th January 2013

Prof. Jean Staune (Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris) started with presentation on Science and Religion in the World today & New Paradigms of Science, in which he summarised the major developments in 20th-century science such as relativity and quantum theories in physics, Godel’s theorem in mathematical epistemology, and De Duve and Conway-Morris’ ideas of direction, non-randomness, and convergence in biological evolution. He showed how these “new paradigms” have influenced the discourse in “Science and Religion”, and how this field has become a growing academic discipline in its own right with chairs at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. This was followed by Prof. Nidhal Guessoum (American University of Sharjah), who gave a general overview of the main topic, Islam and Science, showing why “modern science” (particularly “methodological naturalism”) poses a challenge for traditional religious views and discussing the various contemporary Muslim responses to the challenge, ranging from Nasr’s “Sacred Science” and Sardar’s “Islamic/Ethical Science” to Salam’s “Universal Science”, ending with his own “Averroesian Harmonization.”

Yasmin Khan (former curator at both the Science Museum and the British Library) spoke on The 1001 Inventions Exhibition at the Science Museum, London: Engaging the Public in a Multicultural History of Science, a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of commissioning the most successful touring exhibition in the history of the Science Museum, with a screening of the exhibition’s central 15-minute film, 1001 Inventions and The Library of Secrets, starring Sir Ben Kingsley as Al-Jazari.

Dr. Athar Osama (of complemented the day’s philosophical, theological, historical, civilisational and public-outreach themes with a sobering presentation on Science Policy in the Muslim World Today: Challenges and Prospects, focusing on governmental public policy and investment in science education and research and an analysis of the funding and work of COMSTECH, the OIC’s arm for science and technology.

Sunday 20th January 2013

Dr. Jean Staune gave a fascinating presentation on the Theories of Evolution. The philosopher of science showed multiple lines of evidence that evolution is an indisputable fact, but one that should not be confused with Darwinism. Based on the research of leading palaeontologists such as Conway-Morris and on the work of Nobel laureate De Duve and others, Staune insisted that the current Darwinian theory of evolution is incompatible at best, and presented ideas implying that evolution is a process leading, sooner or later, to beings like us with a consciousness of their own existence and the ability to seek God.

This was followed by a joint presentation on Islam and the Theory/Fact of Evolution by Prof. Nidhal Guessoum and Dr. Usama Hasan (Quilliam). The presentations included theological and scriptural arguments supporting evolution as well as a history of evolutionary ideas within Muslim civilisation since the 9th century CE from Al-Jahiz and the Brethren of Purity through to Rumi and Ibn Khaldun, a history recognised by a number of historians, Muslim and non-Muslim ones. Also covered was the acceptance of biological evolution by 19th/20th-century Muslim theologians such as Husain al-Jisr (nicknamed “the Ash’ari of our times” by Afghani), and ‘Abd al-Sabur Shahin, a well-known scholar of Al-Azhar. Current Muslim resistance to scientific facts was illustrated with historical precedents of misreading the Qur’an to make inflexible but erroneous assertions about scientific matters, such as Ibn Kathir and Shanqiti’s insistence that the earth was created before the heavens, Suyuti’s insistence that the earth is flat and Ibn Taymiyyah’s assertion that cattle (sheep, goats, cows and camels) were created in heaven (which would imply that modern-day followers of Ibn Taymiyyah who insist that humans were created in heaven and descended from there must also believe the same about those four species of mammals).

The sessions by Staune, Guessoum and Hasan illustrated well the irony that whilst modern biology, built on evolution, has succeeded in mapping the entire human genome as well as the DNA of thousands of other species, and new fields emerge such as astrobiology and the origin-of-life research looking at deep-sea volcanoes, many Muslims (and Christians) continue to debate whether or not evolution (including that of humans) is a fact, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Dr. Bruno Abdelhaq Guiderdoni (Director of the Lyon Observatory) gave a fascinating presentation on Islam & Cosmology: Yesterday and Today, based on the mind-boggling discoveries of modern astronomy, including the existence of exo-planets in earth-like habitable orbits around stars other than the sun. In his lecture, Dr. Guiderdoni stressed the need to read the “Book of Nature” along with the “Book of God” and to maintain the inseparability of science and ethics. The discussion included topics such as the possibility of a multiverse and the question of extra-terrestrial intelligence and life-forms.

Dr. Guiderdoni’s emphasis on ethics led nicely to the session by Dr. Usama Hasan on Islam, Science and Ethics, in which he presented the theory of Maqasid al-Sharia (The Universal, Higher Objectives of Islamic Law) as an Islamic framework for ethics suitable for “Universal Science.” The framework is based on the Islamic principles of justice as minimum, compassion as maximum, promoting benefit and avoiding harm. The theory was illustrated with reference to ethical questions around family planning, abortion and organ transplants.

The workshop concluded with an open and long discussion session involving all participants, further exploring the ideas presented at the workshop and possible next steps to take the exciting conversations forward.


September 17, 2010

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful



by Usama Hasan, 7th September 2010

The Introduction to the original 1988 edition of Prof. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (Bantam Press) was written by the late Carl Sagan, a leading American physicist who was also atheist. In this Introduction, Sagan put a decidedly atheist slant on Hawking’s work:

“In this book are lucid revelations on the frontiers of physics, astronomy, cosmology, and courage … This is also a book about God … or perhaps the absence of God. The word God fills these pages. Hawking embarks on a quest to answer Einstein’s famous question about whether God had any choice in creating the universe. Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort, at least so far: a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do.”

Since many, if not most, people who bought the bestseller failed to make much headway into a rather difficult read for the non-specialist, Sagan’s resounding words at the beginning of the book had enormous influence, no doubt. Many people would have been left unaware that Hawking’s short, concluding chapter maintained an agnostic position, rather open to the idea of God. Just over two decades later, the publication of extracts from Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design, shows that the “greatest physicist since Einstein” has not followed the latter’s mystical view of God, but rather opted for a Sagan-like position.

Over the past week, many journalists and commentators have dug up Hawking’s concluding paragraph from 1988 (p. 175), and reasoned that he has now simply changed his mind:

“However, if we do discover a complete theory … it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”

However, Hawking had made the more important, philosophical points a couple of paragraphs earlier (p. 174), points that have largely been ignored in the recent debate:

“Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?”

It would now appear that Hawking has forgotten these crucial questions by claiming in his latest book (as reported in The Times, 2nd September 2010) that,

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

Here, Hawking fails to explain where the law of gravity comes from, and fails to answer his own question from 1988,

“What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

Or, as Professor Paul Davies puts it,

“A much tougher problem now looms, however. What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing?”

Hawking’s “spontaneous creation” is God-by-another-name: our atheist friends, like theists, have many names for God!

Hawking’s reliance on M-theory (related to string theory) is objectionable because it goes against his own strong positivist position that demands experimental tests for any theory. Paul Davies says, “It is not testable, not even in any foreseeable future,” and Professor Jon Butterworth adds, “M-theory is highly speculative and certainly not in the zone of science that we’ve got any evidence for.” (Both quotations are from The Times)

Furthermore, the physicists Lee Smolin and Peter Woit have both written popular books about the problems of string theory (The Trouble With Physics and Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory, respectively).

As to the idea of the multiverse, the cosmos as a vast (possibly infinite) collection of universes inferred by Hawking from M-theory, Neil Manson once said that, “the multiverse is the last resort of the desperate atheist.” However, whereas some of our Jewish, Christian and Muslim friends may have objections to the multiverse, given the centrality of the Israelite people, Christ and Muhammad respectively in our theologies, others have no such problems. The Qur’an teaches that God created “seven earths” (Surah al-Talaq or Chapter: Divorce, 65:12). The great early commentator, Ibn ‘Abbas, taught that “on each earth there is an Adam, a Moses, a Jesus and a Muhammad.” In other words, there is life on other planets and possibly in parallel universes, and since all creation is there to glorify God, other forms of intelligent life may also reach the heights of spirituality amongst their species.

God as Creator (al-Khaliq, and also the intensive form al-Khallaq) is able to create as many universes as He wishes. So in answer to the question, “God or multiverse?” it is obviously possible to believe in God as Lord of the Multiverse (Rabb al-‘alamin).

In conclusion, it should be remembered that Hawking is a brilliant scientist.  Science does an excellent job of describing Nature, or as a theist would say, how God creates.  But science can say nothing essential about why we are here and how we should live our lives: only true and balanced faith and religion can answer those questions, with Messengers of God to show us the Way.

Dr. Usama Hasan is Senior Lecturer in Engineering at Middlesex University, an imam at Al-Tawhid Mosque in London and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Click here for a PDF version of this article: On God and Hawking 7-Sep-2010

BBC Radio 4 today: Big Bang & God

August 30, 2010

Bismillah. I will be on BBC Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” programme today, 4.30-5.00pm (BST), God-willing. Topic: The Big Bang, Cosmology & whether these affect faith in God. Chaired by Ernie Rae. The other panellists are an agnostic physicist and an Anglican theologian-physicist. I’m the Islamic mystic-physicist on the panel. 😉

The programme is available online here.

Some speculations on the topological structure of elementary particles – by Sabbir Rahman

March 29, 2010

Bismillah.  This is from the remarkable Sabbir Rahman, may God increase his knowledge and intelligence even further.


I had something of an epiphany this morning, and wanted to share it with you.

In a recent paper, I explained how classical electrodynamics could perhaps be explained by the motion of a relativistic fluid in a double-sheeted spacetime, with time flowing in opposite directions on each sheet. The 4-dimensional spacetime in which we live is a superposition of these sheets. The fluid particles are identified with neutrinos and antineutrinos, which are rotating (Kerr) black holes formed by the gravitational collapse of gravitational waves. Furthermore, electrons are rotating (Kerr) black holes formed by the gravitational collapse of neutrinos. The motion of the neutrinos is what gives the electron its apparent negative charge (collapse of antineutrinos gives rise to positive charge, such as in the positron).

Now, Kerr black holes have a ring-like singularity which rotates at the speed of light (unlike the pointlike singularity which occurs at the centre of a Schwarzschild black hole – note that the Schwarzschild black hole can be considered as a particular limit of a Kerr black hole where the rotational anglar momentum is zero). In actual fact, the topology of the Kerr black hole is not that of a torus/doughnut, but rather that of a Klein bottle/double torus, which reconnects with itself only after two rotations around the ring. This is what gives the neutrinos and electrons their half-integral spin, and makes them fermions – i.e. they need to be rotated 720 degrees before they return to their original state/orientation in spacetime.

I was also able to explain in the paper how the interactions between electrons and positrons could be exchanged by the exchange of neutrinos. For example, a source electron will ’emit’ a neutrino, which will ‘strike’ the target electron, passing through its ring singularity and being sent backwards in time (i.e. it looks like an antineutrino going forwards in time) to the source electron, where it again passes through the ring singularity, emergin forwards in time to become the originally emitted neutrino!

Thus, the interaction between charged particles comes about through the exchange of a photon, which is nothing but a neutrino forming a closed timelike loop between the source and target charge. Furthermore, the neutrino travelling forwards in time will interact with itself travelling backwards in time, and this will in general result in an oscillatory or twisting motion, which gives rise to the frequency and polarisation of the photon. The existence of these closed timelike loops, i.e. the existence of time-reversing collisions within the context of classical mechanics can explain why the universe is actually quantum mechanical, because it means that at any given time, there are many possible futures which are consistent with the present (and the past), and which future actually occurs can only be determined probabilistically. As I have mentioned before, this can be identified precisely with the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics. [Note that determinism and causality is therefore lost and a ‘choice’ has to be made at every point in time – which can lead on nicely to a discussion of predestination and free will, but I will not go into such matters now and stick to the underlying physics].

The above nicely can explain the structure of the electrons, neutrinos, photons, electromagnetic waves, etc, and even the foundations of quantum theory – all of which follow essentially from first principles from classical gravity (i.e. Einstein’s general theory of relativity).

This does however require that we keep the entire mathematical solutions of black holes and admit the existence of two spacetime sheets – usually one of these sheets is discarded as ‘unphysical’ as they seem to correspond to ‘white holes’ which are constantly spewing out particles which are not seen in reality. However, this overlooks the fact that the direction of time is reversed in these white hole solutions, so that they actually look like antiparticle black holes. So, whenever something falls into a black hole, it is actually accompanied by its own antiparticle, or looking at it differently, a particle that falls into a black hole is immediately re-emitted travelling backwards in time.

It also requires that we allow for the existence of ‘gravitational charges’. In particular, gravitational waves/antigravitons with negative mass. This however, must follow from the existence of the second (dual) spacetime sheet corresponding to the discarded half of the the black hole solutions. The change in time direction is also accompanied by a change in sign of mass. Thus, gravitational waves travelling forwards in time on the second sheet will have negative mass and collapse to form antineutrinos which spew out antigravitons into the first (base) sheet.

It seems then that we have a relatively complete description of classical (and quantum) electrodynamics, together with a description of neutrinos and photons, and together these pretty much cover the first family of leptonic particles in the standard model. But it is then natural to ask whether, and if so, how, the remaining elementary particles, namely the quarks and the hadrons (such as protons and neutrons and pions etc, which are composed of quarks) fit into this picture.

If the model cannot explain these as well, then, despite all of the successes so far, ultimately fails.

I believe insha’Allah that I now have a possible answer. It is beautiful, appears to be consistent, as one would ideally want from such a new theory, potentially makes a very interesting prediction which could explain the nature of the missing dark matter in the universe.

The clues to the answer are staring us in the face – the lowest mass quarks are the up and down quarks, and they are unusual in having fractional charges of +2/3 for the up quark and -1/3 for the down quark. It is also interesting that the down quark appears to have almost precisely twice the mass of the up quark. Both particles are also spin half fermions.

Now, we know from our model that charge is associated with particles which act as ‘sinks’ of neutrinos or antineutrinos. Also, mass is associated with spacetime curvature. Spin half is associated with the need for the particle to rotate 720 degrees before returning to its original orientation.

Those who have studied complex analysis, will realise that the structure of the electron looks very much like the structure of complex square root function, w=sqrt(z). The solution for w is a double-sheeted covering of the plane with a single branch cut – each complex number has two complex square roots, one on each sheet.

A good way to picture/model this is to take two circular pieces of paper placed on top of each other, and cut them both from the outside to the centre. Now, keeping them on top of each other, paste or tape them together so that a line drawn around the circle of the upper sheet which crosses the cut continues on to the lower circular sheet. The line then makes a rotation around the lower sheet, crosses the cut, and continues on the upper sheet (unfortunately it is impossible to tape the second cuts together, but hopefully you can imagine what this would look like.

There is a nice picture of the complex square root function on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Square_root# Square_roots_ of_negative_ and_complex_ numbers

The third picture, which shows the pasted sheets, is a pretty good representation of the structure of the electron.

The generalisation of this picture to complex cube roots (using three circular sheets of paper) is hopefully obvious, and is described in Wikipedia here:

http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Cube_root

This is actually very similar to my proposed structure for the up and down quarks.

The problem however is that you would need to do three complete rotations (i.e. 1080 degrees) to come back to the starting points in this case, so this would actually decribe a particle of spin 1/3. As far as we know, no such elementary exists.

But there is a simple trick that solves the problem. Instead of starting with three circular sheets, we can cut out one-third of the circle from each sheet (i.e. leaving a 240 degree segment, each of which looks like a ‘Pacman’ shape), and then paste them together. The final picture remains much the same, however cutting out the 120 degree sliver from each circle results in a ‘pinched’ sheet for the particle’s ‘internal’ spacetime – we only have to go round 720 spatial degrees to travel round all three of the quark’s internal sheets. And this is precisely my proposed structure for the up quark. It is a triple-sheeted black hole solution with each sheet ‘pinched’ so that it has a missing or ‘defect’ angle of 120 degrees (technically such topological/ geometrical structures are called ‘quotient spaces’ or ‘orbifolds’) . See for example:

http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Defect_(geometry)
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Orbifold).
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Quotient_ space

The ‘pinching’ of course produces curvature and hence mass, and it is necessary in order to be consistent with the double sheeted nature of spacetime – which also implies the spin-half of the quark. But it also explains in a very pleasing way why up quarks have a charge of +2/3 – the 120 degree defect angle means that only 2/3 of the (anti)neutrinos are falling into the singularity compared with the electron, which does not have a defect angle.

The down quark can be described in the same way as the up quark, but this time there is a defect angle of 240 degrees instead of 120 degrees for the up quark.

This means that the internal spacetime is pinched twice as much, which will require twice as much energy/mass/ curvature, and this is pleasingly confirmed by the fact that the mass of the down quark is approximately twice the mass of the up quark. The charge is negative because the down quark is formed from the gravitational collapse of neutrinos rather than antineutrinos.

The quarks can therefore be thought of as being intrinsically triple-sheeted objects which are being forced (by stretching out the angles) to live in a double-sheeted spacetime. This essentially explains why quarks are not found in their ‘naked’ state and are always constituents of composite particles such as nucleons (neutrons and protons) and mesons such as pions. In the standard model, the quarks are also assigned a ‘colour’ charge, of which there are three – namely ‘red’ ‘green’ and ‘blue’ – with their corresponding anti-colours for antiquarks. The observed particles are all colour ‘singlets’, i.e. they are either a combination of a quark and an antiquark of the same but opposite colour (e.g red + anti-red), or of three quarks, one of each colour, i.e. red + green + blue or anti-red + ant-green + anti-blue.

In the proposed model, the three quark colours can be associated with three sheets of which they are constituted. The requirement of observable particles being colour singlets is simply the requirement that the quark composites live naturally on the double-sheeted spacetime. (In actual fact, for mesons, which are made of a quark and an anti-quark, the specific colours assigned are probably irrelevant).

Consider the structure, then, of the lightest hadrons (mesons and baryons). The positively charged pion for example, is a composite of an up quark and an anti-down quark. We can now picture this as being very similar to a positron, but rather than there being a full 360 degree rotation on the two spacetime sheets around the Kerr singularity, there is a 240 degree rotation on the single (e.g. red) pinched internal sheet due to the up-quark, followed by a further 120 degree rotation on the doubly-pinched internal sheet (e.g. anti-red) due to the anti-down quark. There is a total internal rotation of 360 degrees, but an external rotation of 720 degrees, achieved by ‘stretching’ the internal angles as necessary. The same kind of picture can be drawn for the other mesons.

As for baryons such as the proton, which consists of two up quarks and one down quark for a net charge of +1, we have a similar situation, but this time all three ‘coloured sheets’ are used – e.g. 240 degrees of red, 240 degrees of green and 120 degrees of blue (note that the colours are really just labels for the sheets) which are stretched to fill out the complete 720 degree rotation in the double-sheeted spacetime.

We have seen that electrons and neutrinos have no defect angle, while up quarks have a defect angle of 120 degrees (i.e. 1/3 of a rotation) and down quarks have a defect angle of 240 degrees (i.e. 2/3 of a rotation remains). It is natural to ask whether there might also be particles [any name suggestions? – let’s just call it ‘S’ for now] with a defect angle of 180 degrees (1/2 of a rotation).

Such particles would be expected to have bare mass intermediate between that of an up quark and a down quark, i.e. around 3.6 MeV/c^2 (assuming 2.4MeV/c^2 for the up quark and 4.8 MeV/c^2 for the down quark), but there would only be one type with half-integral charge. It would therefore be paired with its own antiparticle in its lightest stable composite state (i.e. S + anti-S), which would therefore be electrically neutral (but could be significantly more massive than its consituents just as the pions are significantly more massive than their quark constituents, and of the order of 140 MeV/c^2). This would therefore be a massive neutral particle which does not interact the other standard model particles through either the elecroweak or strong forces, and could therefore be a potential candidate for the missing dark matter.

On the other hand, charged versions analogous to the proton (S + S and anti-S + anti-S composites of somewhat larger mass) would probably also be predicted. I don’t know if such things have been observed, or whether there is any other reason why they might not be allowed.

Defect angles of 90 degrees (i.e. 1/4 of a rotation) or higher fractions could potentially also exist, but there is presumably an energy/mass cost associated with squeezing in additional spacetime sheets, just as there is a large jump in mass from electron (0.511 MeV/c^2 to pion (140 MeV). There may be other reasons/selection rules which forbid their existence.

While I have discussed the structure a single family of elementary fermions above (electrons, neutrinos, up and down quarks), there are actually three fermion families which exist and need to be explained. They are very likely simply to be excited states of the first family (perhaps corresponding to black holes with more complex singularity structures than the Kerr black hole), and hopefully this will also explain why only three fermion families have been observed.


The most striking prediction of the model is that antimatter has negative gravitational mass (all matter has positive inertial mass), so antimatter should fall upwards in the gravitational field of ordinary matter. Even the Dirac equation predicts that positrons should have negative mass – though this fact tends to be conveniently overlooked by mainstream physicists for reasons not particularly well understood by me.

Despite the widespread belief that antimatter will also fall downwards like ordinary matter, it happens no-one has actually definitively tested whether which way antimatter falls. Fortunately the Aegis experiment (which was due to be carried out this year at CERN, though I do not know its current status), will for the first time insha’Allah be making measurements which will determine whether antimatter does indeed violate the equivalence principle. I have in the past contacted Michael Doser who is the spokesperson for the experiment, and he says that he is expecting either no violation or a very small violation, but will keep an open mind. Obviously, I am hoping for maximal violation! The AEGIS webpage is here,

http://aegis. ch/aegis/ home.html

though it doesn’t seem to have changed much recently.

Another thought that came to mind after posting my earlier message, and which makes me feel rather silly now (with the benefit of hindsight of course) is that I speculated at the end about the possibility of an S + anti-S particle with zero charge, and also S + S and anti-S + anti-S particles with +1 and -1 charge respectively. Well, the only standard model particles which are missing from the first fermion family (I ignore the Higgs for now, which is still hypothetical) , are the Z0, W+ and W-, that is, the three weak interaction intermediate gauge vector bosons, which have charges 0, +1, and -1 respectively, with mases of 91 GeV/c^2 for the Z0 and 80 GeV/c^2 for the W’s. So the model could well be predicting the existence of these three particles – which would be something of a blessing.

The reason why I did not make the connection immediately is because I was expecting the SS particles to be fermions not bosons – but perhaps the 180 degree defect angle turns them into bosons in this context (needs further thought). Also, I was expecting the intermediate gauge vector bosons to be analogous to the photon in some way, which is associated with neutrino/antineutri no exchange. On the other hand, there is no need for photons to carry any kind of topological charge, whereas this is not the case for the weak vector bosons, and this may account for the major difference between the two types of vector boson in the model.

Moon Clocks – Mediaeval & Modern

September 5, 2009
Bismillah.  For a description of a mediaeval Islamic moon-clock in Toledo, Andalusia, see below.
Firstly, a modern moon-clock project.  From the team at Aluna:
Dear All,

We were thrilled that Aluna was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and also on the BBC website on September 1st 2009. Thanks to those of you who heard it and have already been in touch.

The radio piece, by BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh, features contributions from David Rooney, former curator of Timekeeping at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (now at the Science Museum), Dr. Usama Hasan, Imam and Islamic Astronomer and Aluna’s Laura Williams.

Do take a look at the article on the BBC news website –

You can also listen again to the Today Programme on the BBC iplayer for the next few days –

(The story starts at 44 mins 30 secs but you can skip straight there by dragging the cursor along)
For those of you who are not already aware, we’re very pleased that The Aluna Foundation has received its charitable status – granted on the July 20th, the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings!
Secondly, thanks to Mohammad Baig, an astronomer and writer, for drawing my attention to the following:
Al-Zarqali and his lunar chronograph or moon-clock

Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Ibn Yahya Al-Zarqali (Arzachel in Latin), was a famous Andalusian scholar known also as Al-Zarqalluh and Al-Zarqallah. He was born in 1029 and died in 1087. His life corresponded exactly to that dramatic period when the Muslim realm of Spain completely disintegrated, and nearly collapsed, only to be saved in 1089, when the Almoravids of Morocco crossed into Spain, crushed the Christians at Zalaqa, and unified Spain once more. They were followed later by the Almohads, who kept Spain under Muslim rule for another two centuries, until the middle of the 13th century, when Muslim Spain, with the exception of Granada, was lost for good.

Al-Zarqali constructed the famed clocks of Toledo, which al-Zuhri has described in a Castilian translation, published by J.M. Millas-Vallicrosa. The clocks were in use until 1135, when King Alphonso VI tried to discover how they worked and asked Hamis Ibn Zabara to dismantle them. Once they were taken apart, nobody could reassemble them. They constituted a very precise lunar calendar and were, to some extent, the predecessors of the clocks or planetary calendar devices that became fashionable six centuries later in Europe.

Ahmad Thomson has given a vivid account of the intricate working of the clocks. The clocks consisted of two basins, which filled with water or emptied according to the increasing or waning of the moon. At the moment when the new moon appeared on the horizon, water would begin to flow into the basins by means of subterranean pipes, so that there would be at day-break the fourth of a seventh part, and at the end of the day half a seventh part, of the water required to fill the basins. In this proportion the water would continue to flow until seven days and as many nights of the month had elapsed, by which time both basins would be half filled. The same process during the following seven days and nights would make the two basins quite full, at the same time that the moon was at its full. However, on the fifteenth night of the month, when the moon would begin to wane, the basins would also begin to lose every day and night half a seventh part of their water, until by the twenty-first of the month they would be half empty, and when the moon reached her twenty-ninth night not a drop of water would remain in them. It is worthy of remark that, should anyone go to any of the basins when they were not filled, and poured water into them with a view to quicken its filling, the basins would immediately absorb the additional water and retain no more than the just quantity; and, on the contrary, were anyone to try, when they were nearly filled, to extract any or the whole of their water, the moment he raised his hands from the work the basins would pour out sufficient water to fill the vacuum in an instant.

General Relativity (Gravity) and Quantum Theory

July 14, 2009

Modified Newtonian Dynamics by Dr. Sabbir Rahman

Famously, Einstein’s theory of gravity and general relativity (GR) is incompatible with quantum theory (QT), but both are theories that have been experimentally tested to be true to a very high degree of precision, within their own domains.  Reconciling GR and QT is one of the major unsolved problems in contemporary physics.  Here is a fascinating paper by Dr. Sabbir Rahman that outlines a possible solution to the problem.


We consider a simple model of the physical vacuum as a self-gravitating rela-
tivistic fluid. Proceeding in a step-by-step manner, we are able to show that the
equations of classical electrodynamics follow if the electromagnetic four-potential
is associated with the four-momentum of a space-filling fluid of neutral spinors
which we identify with neutrinos and antineutrinos. Charged particles, which
we identify with electrons and positrons, act as sinks for the fluid and have
the structure of the maximal fast Kerr solution. Electromagnetic waves are de-
scribed by oscillations in the fluid and interactions between charges occur via the
exchange of photons, which have the structure of entwined neutrino-antineutrino
pairs that form twisted closed loops in spacetime connecting the charges. The
model predicts that antimatter has negative mass, and that neutrinos are matter-
antimatter dipoles. Together these suffice to explain the presence of modified
Newtonian dynamics as a gravitational polarisation effect.