Sunday, November 22, 2015

Interstellar Homework

This was the first time I saw the movie Interstellar, and I have to say I am completely blown away. It's easily one of the best movies I've ever seen, if not -the- best. The story behind the movie was just as entertaining as the physics. The movie introduced concepts to the public that few had ever considered possible and did it in a way that was scientifically accurate and believable. Perhaps chief among these and one of the highlights of the movie was the wormhole placed near Saturn by beings from a place with four spatial dimensions, who can apparently warp spacetime with "relative" ease (Eh? Get it? Relative?). Bad jokes aside, the concept of a wormhole is quite simple actually and is depicted very well in the movie itself with one of the characters folding a piece of paper in two and then sticking a pen through it to illustrate traveling from one spot to another over a great distance in a short time. The wormhole in question takes the crew to another galaxy with planets orbiting a black hole. Now, I'm not a rocket scientist (yet), but I'm pretty sure fixing Earth is probably easier than getting Earth's entire population into a massive ship, sending that ship to Saturn and then through a wormhole to another galaxy where the habitable planets are orbiting an enormous black hole named Gargantua. Personally, I would stay as far away from black holes as possible.

According to Kip Thorne, a wormhole is unnatural in our universe with our laws of physics, but for an "ultra-advanced" civilization from a higher dimension, it would probably be a cake-walk. The idea behind a wormhole is that it would require negative energy to remain stable and we have absolutely no concept of what negative energy might be or how to use it. For us, creating and stabilizing wormholes may be stuck in the realm of impossibility with laws of physics.

However if we were to indulge this theoretical idea, how would a wormhole look? Well the odds are it would be a sphere, and light traveling through it from the other side would come through, giving you a picture of what is on the other side. So if there were a planet on the other side, you would see that planet looking through the wormhole. The same goes for the opposite, if there were someone on the other side of the wormhole looking back through, they would see you looking at them.

One theory is that wormholes do actually exist, but they're on the subatomic level, a part of the theoretical "quantum foam." These wormholes are not visible to the human eye and would only be about a Planck Length long. Suffice to say, you won't be going anywhere fast with those wormholes.

The very idea of wormholes is strange in itself, but theoretically they could exist as an alternative to faster-than-light travel. Obviously there are no wormholes simply hanging around Saturn, and we really can't travel through subatomic wormholes on the off chance that they actually exist. So I suppose we'll just have to wait until a group of beings from a higher dimension place one for us to use. In the meantime, we'll continue trying to figure out how to create them anyway.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Many of the technologies we have to day were "predicted" by the Star Trek T.V. series such as hand-held communication devices and doors that open on their own. It's easy to see why so many scientists and science-lovers enjoyed the series. The physics and gadgets of the Star Trek series are mostly correct with only minor deviations from our laws and limits excluding things such as the Warp drive. These things were easily forgiven however, because they made for a great story and was necessary to advance the plot. The Warp drive itself has become quite famous and NASA has actually begun research on such a thing, the theoretical warp drive being named the "Alcubierre drive."

The Warp drive allows the crew and the ship to travel at many times the speed of light in order to travel from system to system in reasonable amounts of time, and it is one of the only hypothetical faster-than-light technologies that involves a travel time rather than instantly jumping from system to system. There are mentions of "warp factors" in the movies and T.V. shows and according to the Star Trek Technical Manuals, the warp factors are converted to multiples of c with the cubic function v = w3c. According to this equation, Warp Factor 1 would be c, or the speed of light. However, 
Warp Factor 2 would be 8 times the speed of light, Warp Factor 3 would be 27 times the speed of light and
so on. The warp core, which is the central part of the warp drive, is often known as the "gravimetric field 
displacement manifold," and is powered by matter-antimatter annihilation, meaning when matter and
antimatter come into contact, they annihilate and release enormous amounts of energy. So yes, it's very 
complicated and highly theoretical, but it makes sense. Sort of.

The warp drive is perhaps the most crucial part of the Star Trek series itself, making any and all travel 
between solar systems possible. How they solved the need for an infinite amount of Work at the speed of 
light is beyond me, but apparently they figured it out. Just to use an example of it's necessity for the plot; 
Spock would never be a part of the Enterprise crew because he was from the planet Vulcan, which was 16
light years away from Earth. The Voyager probe, traveling at 17 kilometers a second, will take roughly
73,775 years to reach Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to Earth at 4.24 ly. So the warp drive is
clearly necessary for any alien species to be a member of Starfleet. 

The second and perhaps the only invention in the Star Trek universe that even comes close to the level of
necessity that the warp drive has is the inertial dampers. What are the inertial dampers, you might ask? 
The inertial dampers keep everyone alive every time the ship accelerates. What happens when you get in 
a car and slam on the gas? You're shoved backwards into the seat. Now imagine that sensation at several
times the speed of light. Now you know why the inertial dampers are necessary. Without the inertial
dampers, everyone in the ship would simply appear as a bloody smear on whatever wall is in front of them
provided the ship didn't simply tear itself apart immediately as the warp drive was engaged.

The inertial dampers function on the idea of inertia negation, which is a hypothetical process of causing 
physical objects with mass to act as if they had lower mass or had no mass at all. Obviously there is no 
way to change the mass of an object to zero and even if you could, the object would no longer exist.
This is the big middle finger to the law of conversation of mass. So yeah. That's how that works, or
doesn't work. 

In conclusion, Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. - Spock2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Nuclear Dilemma Homework

The production and use of Nuclear weapons is a highly controversial topic, debated on between scientists and military officials alike. The original rush for the creation of the atomic bombs was because of the horrible thought of Nazi Germany gaining them first and using them to dominate the world. Nowadays they're being continually developed to make them safer and to avoid malfunctions in the event they need to be launched. During the Cold War though, both the Soviet Union and the United States rushed to create an enormous number of nuclear weapons to try and bully the other into submission. This all came to a head with Soviet nuclear technology being transported to Cuba, a mere 90 miles south of the Floridian border.

Nuclear weapons are a moral dilemma. On one hand they act as a deterrent to war, an unspoken threat to anyone considering war with a nuclear nation. On the other hand, they are an extremely efficient way to end human life, and are terribly powerful. I personally am against the use of nuclear weapons, but I do believe that they should exist and continue to exist as a deterrent.

I believe that Nuclear weapons should exist because of their constant and unspoken threat. They deter war because no one wants to have their entire country destroyed in a matter of seconds. If I were a nuclear physicist working to improve nuclear weapons, I would simply quit my job. I refuse to create something that can kill millions indeterminately at the push of a button. I could not willingly contribute to the creation of weapons of mass destruction. However, if my job were to maintain the existing weapons and ensure the safety of anyone and anything within it's range, I would gladly do my job.

If I were forced to work on a nuclear weapon with the knowledge it would be used to kill innocents to end a war, much like the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project were, I don't know what I would do. Slow my work to a crawl, hope that I was kicked out because I simply wasn't working out, or if they refused to kick me out, intentionally delay the creation. I understand that this may be immoral in and of itself, but I would gladly delay the calculations in order to hope for a better solution. I would not sabotage the project physically, but if I had no choice, I would work the slowest I possibly could.

I would sign the petition the scientists in the Manhattan Project started, hoping that the creation would never be utilized, but I understood why they chose to work on the bomb. Nazi Germany getting their hands on it first was not an option, but I'm glad they petitioned against the use of it and I would have done the same in their position.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Day After Tomorrow Homework

Carbon Dioxide (often denoted as CO2) is the primary gas emitted by the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and oil. Carbon Dioxide is a pollutant, causing health conditions in major cities such as Beijing, China, where the air pollution levels are twenty times the maximum level stated by the World Health Organization. People who live in Beijing are expected to live a lifespan fifteen years shorter than the global average. Even the Chinese government is recommending that children and elderly remain indoors where they can breathe fresher air and if they must go outside, they should wear facial masks.

This is a picture of Beijing on a particularly bad day. This isn't fog, it's smog, a combination of haze and smoke/pollutants.
Death rates due to air pollution are the highest in China, unsurprisingly. As of 2008, the death toll was at nearly half a million compared to the next highest India at around one hundred and sixty eight thousand, as reported by the World Health Organization.
The cause of these deaths stem from the burning of coal, gas, oil, and other natural gasses for electricity, transportation, and industrial factories. Electricity is the largest cause of pollution at a rather shocking 37% while transportation is close behind with 31% of all CO2 emissions. Industry falls a little farther behind at 15% while the other 16% is made up of everything else. To cut down CO2 emissions by over a third, we would simply need to phase out power plants that burn coal and fuel and substitute them with things such as Nuclear power plants or solar energy.
The city of Beijing has smog so dense that it can be observed from the International Space Station.
The Chinese government is also hypocritical in their claim of attempting to lower pollution levels. On one hand, they offer a reward to the city of Beijing for reducing CO2 emissions, but on the other they agree to fund fifteen new large-scale coal mining projects. Seeing as the burning of coal and other natural gasses are the root of the problem regarding pollution, the Chinese government isn't helping the environment, simply destroying it even faster. This is not just a problem in China, however. The entire world has to deal with the issue of air pollution, China being the most extreme of examples. 
The reduction of CO2 emissions is paramount to the survival of the human species and the preservation of our world. If we continue on the path we are on today, the world will become uninhabitable, which would mean the end for our species and perhaps all life on Earth. The best case scenario if this does happen is humans survive at a distance, perhaps orbiting Earth in some sort satellite or the colonization and terraforming of Mars where we can begin anew the destruction of a planet.