Thursday, 6 March, 2014
Remember the Higgs boson – “God” – particle? Its existence, or otherwise, was meant to have far reaching ramifications. For everything, I think. For whatever reason though, we’ve not been hearing all that much about the esteemed particle of late. Surely the mysteries of the universe were not solved instantly, the minute it came to light?
Probably not, but the details, the nitty-gritty, of the Higgs boson likely don’t make for interesting headlines, explaining the relative silence on the topic in the wake of its unearthing. If the Higgs remains something of an enigma to you, even after all this time though, this cartoon by Jorge Cham, re-explaining it, may then be useful.
comics, illustration, physics, science
Friday, 28 February, 2014
We know how stars form, but how about galaxies, that may consist of billions of stars? Surely they to do not originate from the exact same molecular clouds, or stellar nurseries? The answer looks to come down to a combination of factors, collisons, mergers, and in the case of the Milky Way, even cannibalism:
Strangulation occurs when galaxies fall edge first, rather than disk first. Stars, gas, and dust are pulled out in elongated structures both toward and away from the cluster. With the galaxy’s gas and dust dispersed, it’s much harder for star formation to continue. Some galaxies take things to the extreme, ripping smaller galaxies apart entirely and accreting their stars and gas, effectively cannibalizing them. The Milky Way is such a cannibal.
astronomy, Milky Way, science
Wednesday, 26 February, 2014
The idea that the universe may be a simulation intrigues me, if only because the idea is interesting. But here’s another thought, it could be our universe resides within, or took its origins from, a black hole:
But one compelling idea is that the seed of a universe is similar to the seed of a plant: It’s a chunk of essential material, tightly compressed, hidden inside a protective shell. This precisely describes what is created inside a black hole. Black holes are the corpses of giant stars. When such a star runs out of fuel, its core collapses inward. Gravity pulls everything into an increasingly fierce grip. Temperatures reach 100 billion degrees. Atoms are smashed. Electrons are shredded. Those pieces are further crumpled.
black holes, physics, science
Friday, 14 February, 2014
Reddit members attempt to explain complicated scientific notions, such as rocket science, or orbital mechanics, in ten words or less. You never know, you just might find this useful.
Nuclear reactor: hot rock boil water, steam make power.
knowledge, science, trivia
Friday, 7 February, 2014
Antares is a red supergiant star that sits prominently in the constellation of Scorpius. It is also a red supergiant star in the final stages of its approximately – and compared to the Sun, relatively short – twelve million year life.
When it eventually shuffles off this mortal coil, something that could happen tomorrow, or in one million years time hence, it will explode as a supernova. A Type II supernova, I would expect. And going by my web stats, there is much interest in the prospect of an Antares supernova.
But while no one can say when the event will take place, we do know how it might play out. It is a lengthy process, that requires the supernova candidate star to burn first through its hydrogen, then its helium, then its heavier elements, such as carbon, neon, and oxygen.
This may all take seven million years, give or take. Once a star has burned through its silicon though, something that takes just a day, things begin to get interesting however:
This time, however, the core of the star is mostly nickel and iron, and they cannot ordinarily be fused into heavier elements, so as the star shrinks and the temperature and density increase, there is no nuclear fusion ignition of the nickel and iron to counteract the contraction. Here the limit of pressure and density is the electron degeneracy pressure, which is the resistance of electrons being forced to occupy the same energy states, which they can’t. But at solar masses this great, the gravitational binding energy is much greater than this, the contraction pushes past the electron degeneracy pressure, and then things happen very, very quickly – within milliseconds – and very, very violently. The outer core collapses inward at a substantial fraction of the speed of light and the incredibly increasing temperature creates extremely energetic gamma rays (light at extremely high frequencies) which hit the iron nuclei and energizing them so much that they spontaneously decay into alpha particles (a pair of bound protons, which is a bare helium nucleus) and neutrons. This is basically undoing the whole fusion process that led up to this.
Antares, astronomy, science
Friday, 7 February, 2014
Time travel is real and it happens. That’s the opinion at least of some physicists, who think a number scientific puzzles may make more sense if time travel could be factored into the problem solving processes:
To think about this problem, consider the most prosaic of objects: a popsicle stick. The stick will bend or buckle, depending on the pressure you apply to both ends. Now imagine a popsicle stick whose ends are separated in time, rather than in space. The same logic should apply: What happens to the middle of the stick will depend on the situation at each end. For entangled particles, the endpoints happen to be in time. At one end is the moment they were created next to each other in the laboratory, and at the other end is the moment when they are far apart and a measurement is taken. Their behavior at some intermediate time depends on information flowing from both past and future.
The popsicle stick theory of time travel, then?
physics, science, time travel
Thursday, 30 January, 2014
After seeing a list of the ingredients, or chemicals, that make up natural foods – in this context – fruits and eggs, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re actually whipped up in a laboratory, rather than originating from plantations or, as is the probably case with many eggs, battery farms.
Via James’ reading list.
design, food, science
Wednesday, 29 January, 2014
The Sun has been unusually inactive in recent years. Normally solar flares abound, and sunspots spawn across its surface, but – inexplicably – not of late:
The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet. “It could mean a very, very inactive star, it would feel like the Sun is asleep… a very dormant ball of gas at the centre of our Solar System,” explains Dr Green.
The only consolation being this sort of behaviour isn’t exactly unheard of, the Sun experienced a similar period of inactivity during the seventeenth century.
astronomy, science, Sun
Friday, 24 January, 2014
Scientific ideas can come in and out vogue, be found wanting, or, I dare say, simply end up being forgotten about. If we had to vote one such notion, any one at all, off the island though, what should it be. US actor Alan Alda weighs into the debate:
For me, the trouble with truth is that not only is the notion of eternal, universal truth highly questionable, but simple, local truths are subject to refinement as well. Up is up and down is down, of course. Except under special circumstances. Is the north pole up and the south pole down? Is someone standing at one of the poles right-side up or upside-down? Kind of depends on your perspective.
knowledge, philosophy, science
Friday, 17 January, 2014
Trying to impress, or catch the attention, of a scientist? All humour aside, some science flavoured jokes may be the answer… there’s quite a few to choose from as well:
A group of wealthy investors wanted to be able to predict the outcome of a horse race. So they hired a group of biologists, a group of statisticians, and a group of physicists. Each group was given a year to research the issue. After one year, the groups all reported to the investors. The biologists said that they could genetically engineer an unbeatable racehorse, but it would take 200 years and $100bn. The statisticians reported next. They said that they could predict the outcome of any race, at a cost of $100m per race, and they would only be right 10% of the time. Finally, the physicists reported that they could also predict the outcome of any race, and that their process was cheap and simple. The investors listened eagerly to this proposal. The head physicist reported, “We have made several simplifying assumptions: first, let each horse be a perfect rolling sphere…”
humour, jokes, science