Tweaking Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation

I answered a question on Quora about the consequences of Newton’s law of Universal Gravitation being in inverse law and not an inverse square law for 60 seconds. The outcome is not so good, what with all matter acting as a black hole and all.

What would happen if the law of gravity becomes ~1/r instead of ~1/r² for 60 seconds?

Colin Turner’s answer: All matter in the Universe would act as a black hole for 60 seconds. Which could be bad? You may recall that work done against a Force is given by WD = F.s I.e. Force times distance. In any varying force you would have to use the big daddy of multiplication : integratio…

My Old UFO sighting

I promised previously, when talking about UFO sightings over Bangor, that I would record my own here.

As I mentioned then, this doesn’t imply alien craft, but an unidentified flying object, and I’m pretty certain this wasn’t such a craft, or if so, the pilot probably needs an extensive driving ban. Anyway, here’s my record from my log book at the time.

Date: 26th September 1991, Observers: Myself, Dad, Tom Nelson

Seen: Saturn at 117x, Seeing: II, Transparency: Very Good

Saturn seemed exceptionally clear but broke up at 166x. It is descending further into the south of the sky. A 17 day old moon foiled another attempt at M31.

I noted a series of about 6-10 flashes from 10:00 pm to 10:25 pm. I was one of the “objects” at about 10:20 pm. About 3-4 Hours Right Ascension, 60 – 80 degrees Declination. It looked like a wobbly meteor with a flash easily magnitude, say, -2 or brighter. Saw another at 10:30 pm. No further flashes. Could have been an astronomical event or some domestic problem.

My observation from the night
My observation from the night

I’m glad I recorded this carefully. The then president of the Irish Astronomical Association (of which I was a member then) was from Bangor, and was laughed at for his similar report, so it was helpful to have some more evidence. I still don’t know what I saw, it was very bright for a meteor, and of course, they should go in a straight line. I have speculated that there was a rupture in the side of the object from which gas was venting, perhaps causing it to travel in a helical path which would have looked “wobbly” from my perspective on the ground. You can click on the thumbnail of my sketch at the time to see my sensational artistic talent.

UFO does NOT mean flying saucer

Ok, it’s another pet peeve posting. The BBC have just posted a story about strange lights seen over Bangor. The summary reads

“Residents in County Down have raised the possibility of a UFO sighting above the skies of Bangor.”

It’s not a possibility, it was a UFO sighting. That is, they were Unidentified Flying Objects. It irritates me when people use UFO to mean “bizarre alien craft about to abduct me”, because that would clearly be a well identified flying object.

On another note, I lived in Bangor for many years and I also had a UFO sighting when I was there. I was in the back garden with my telescope watching Saturn, and was vaguely aware (I had one eye shut, the other to the eyepiece of my 8″ telescope (SCT)) that there odd lightning like flashes going on. I was watching the sky for a while then, and was lucky enough to see one right in the centre of my vision. It was a very bright corkscrew like motion that lasted about a second. I shouldn’t rely on memory, if I remember I will dig the details from my observation notebook.