Category Archives: Physics

Legendary Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking Dead at 76


Easily the most famous scientist in the world, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76 peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.

The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

The physicist died on Pi Day, March 14, the day each year when scientists and mathematicians celebrate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Today is also famed theory of relativity scientist Albert Einstein’s birthday.

At the age of 22 Prof Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

Considered by many to be the world’s greatest living scientist, Hawking was also a cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician and author of numerous books including the landmark “A Brief History of Time,” which has sold more than 10 million copies.

With fellow physicist Roger Penrose, Hawking merged Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to suggest that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end in black holes. Hawking also discovered that black holes were not completely black but emit radiation and would likely eventually evaporate and disappear.

Hawking suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is usually fatal within a few years. He was diagnosed in 1963, when he was 21, and doctors initially only gave him a few years to live.

Weasel Causes Large Hadron Collider Partical Accelerator to Shutdown


Cern’s famous particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, has recently gone offline due to a weasel.

When was the last time a tiny furry and curious animal short circuited a partical accelerator? A couple days ago.

Cern reported that the unfortunate event happened when a weasel chewed through a wire on a high-voltage transformer at their Geneva location. The BBC reports:

The LHC was running when a “severe electrical perturbation” occurred in the early hours of Friday morning.
A spokesman for Cern said that the weasel did not get into the tunnels, just the electrical facilities.

Read the full story here.

Memetic Warfare and the Sixth Domain Part Three


Can an image, sound, video or string of words influence the human mind so strongly the mind is actually harmed or controlled? Cosmoso takes a look at technology and the theoretical future of psychological warfare with Part Three of an ongoing series. 

Click here for Part One.

Click here for Part Two.

A lot of the responses I got to the first two installments talked about religion being weaponized memes. People do fight and kill on behalf of their religions and memes play a large part in disseminating the message and information religions have to offer.

Curved bullet meme is a great one. Most of the comments I see associated with this image have to do with how dumb someone would have to be to believe it would work. Some people have an intuitive understanding of spacial relations. Some might have a level of education in physics or basic gun safety and feel alarm bells going off way before they’d try something this dumb. It’s a pretty dangerous idea to put out there, though, because a percentage of people the image reaches could try something stupid. Is it a viable memetic weapon? Possibly~! I present to you, the curved bullet meme.

How-to-curve-path-of-bullet

The dangers here should be obvious. The move starts with “begin trigger-pull with pistol pointed at chest (near heart)” and anyone who is taking it seriously beyond is Darwin Award material.

Whoever created this image has no intention of someone actually trying it. So, in order for someone to fall for this pretty obvious trick, they’d have to be pretty dumb. There is another way people fall for tricks, though.

There is more than one way to end up being a victim of a mindfuck and being ignorant is part of a lot of them but ignorance can actually be induced. In the case of religion, there are several giant pieces of information or ways of thinking that must be gotten all wrong before someone would have to believe that the earth is coming to an end in 2012, or the creator of the universe wants you to burn in hell for eternity for not following the rules. By trash talking religion in general, I’ve made a percentage of readers right now angry, and that’s the point. Even if you take all the other criticisms about religion out of the mix, we can all agree that religion puts its believers in the position of becoming upset or outraged by very simple graphics or text. As a non-believer, a lot of the things religious people say sound as silly to me as the curved bullet graphic seems to a well-trained marksman.

To oversimplify it further: religions are elaborate, bad advice. You can inoculate yourself against that kind of meme but the vast majority of people out there cling desperately, violently to some kind of doctrine that claims to answer one or more of the most unanswerable parts of life. When people feel relief wash over them, they are more easily duped into doing what it takes to keep their access to that feeling.

There are tons of non-religious little memes out there that simply mess with anyone who follows bad advice. It can be a prank but the pranks can get pretty destructive. Check out this image from the movie Fight Club:

Motor Oil

Thinking no one fell for this one? For one thing, it’s from a movie, and in the movie it was supposed to be a mean-spirited prank that maybe some people fell for. Go ahead and google “fertilize used motor oil”, though, and see how many people are out there asking questions about it. It may blow your mind…

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Sorry Nerds, There’s No Warp Drive


It makes for a sensational headline but NASA didn’t even come close to discovering warp technology.

The mechanism behind their fuel-free propulsion has no clear link to warping space-time. In fact, space-time is not proven or understood to exist as a material substance able to warp. It’s all nonsense. So what really happened?

Richard Feynman once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

You should have been suspicious when the story made the rounds on social media. The headlines were claiming NASA successfully tested something called the EM Drive. The EM drive is awesome, and it’s real science. It’s a propulsion engine doesn’t use propellant, which seems to violate the laws of physics by creating a reaction with no initial action.

First, let’s examine the actual finding. NASA has developed a hollow device that can be  pumped full of electromagnetic radiation which reflects back-and-forth, tapped inside the chamber, generates thrust, causing the device to accelerate in a direction based onthe shape of the chamber. You might ahve seen the story or similar reports over the last year because iterations of it have been built by Roger Shawyer (the EM Drive), one from a Chinese group led by Juan Yang, and one from Guido Fetta (the Cannae Drive), all claiming successful thrust. The stories on science news sites claim the acceleration created is caused by warped space of an Alcubierre Drive, the completely fictional “Star Trek” design.

Here are some problems. First off, none of the tests showed results from gadations in power. If this is a viable prototype for an engine, the science behind it hasn’t proven why a tiny acceleration in relation to a huge amount of relative power is worth any sort of real consideration for space travel. It’s a weak engine with no sign of how it can be scaled.

Secondly, the thrust they created is so small it might just be a mistake in mathematics or caused by an unknown factor, unrelated to warp tech. A true test requires an isolated environment, with atmospheric, gravitational and electromagnetic effects removed from the equation.

Thirdly, good science is reproducible. These tests lack a transparent design so no one else can verify that this actually works.
Finally, a real report has to be created that can be peer-reviewed and understood before irresponsibly publishing the claims.

Optimism of this sort, claiming to be able to put people on mars with a warp engine, is not scientifically valid. This latest group declared they have broken the previously-held laws of physics. They assume we can scale up and implement this engine for space propulsion just because of some questionably positive results. They claim to be distorting space, they claim they might be causing light to go faster by approximately 10^-18 m/s. They made these claims without actually proving them, and told the general public, spreading misinfo.

Harold “Sonny” White at NASA, has made extraordinary claims about warp drive in the past. He is totally the kind of guy who would jump to warp drive as a conclusion. There is nothing in NASA’s report that shows they’ve created a warp drive. Sorry, Star Trek and Star Wars fans. Most likely this is a public relations move to get America and the world science communities more excited about space travel and science education.

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Chirality and the Asymmetrical Universe


Chirality is a state of not being able to superimpose over its own mirror image. Anything can be chiral, as long as it is asymmetrical along more than one dimension.

Different forms of chirality can be confirmed and used to prove the existence of at least three spacial dimensions.Underlying all of physics is chirality. Without context to anything but itself, there is a universal direction to every dimension. Asymmetry is found everywhere in the natural world.

Quantum physics is riddled with asymmetries like the noteworthy fact that neutrinos all spin the same direction.

The most common usage of the word chirality is in chemistry, where some molecules can’t be  superimposed on their own mirror images. Chiral molecules have more complex properties and can often only operate in cellular life in a narrow context, making them trustworthy and predictable.

Flawed Terminology

Because we function in three-dimensional space, objects must have chirality along multiple axises in order to be truly chiral. Most things easily fulfill that caveat but the official definition is slightly flawed in light of three dimensions. Often, the definition mentions a mirror image that can’t be superimposed but if something were only a mirror image it could be flipped in a third dimension and once again be superimposable. People use the example of left and right hands to describe chirality but that example works because hands have a palm and a back, in addition to mirroring left and right. That said, the etymology of the word chirality is derived from the Greek word for hand. Snail shells, spiral galaxies, and the DNA helix are must have more than one axis of asymmetry to be truly chiral. Another way of saying this is that chiral objects or systems have no symmetrical center in any dimension.

Chirality is  Huge Part of the Synthetic Drug Market

Origami

These origami structures are worth a thousand words. They possess opposite chirality. No matter which way they are turned, the pattern will never twist in the same direction for both objects, yet they are in pattern, ratio, color and mass identical.

 

Many, many molecules are chiral. Whether it is found in nature, synthesized by the human body or created in a lab, a lot of effective, powerful drugs can be analyzed and synthesized with the opposite chirality, creating often times similar drug effects – under a brand new copyright. Drug manufacturers can often times remarket a similar or even better drug without worrying about generic drugs.

There are several ways which chirality manifests in particle physics. Neutrinos only spin left~! Well, “left” isn’t exactly the right word but neutrinos posses a chirality of shape and then only spin in one directions relative to that shape – the only object in the known universe to spin this way. Neutrinos are hard to come by, and usually found as stand alone particles when emitted via radioactive decay or a nuclear reaction, such as the sun. There may be an anti enutrino particle that spins the other way but it has not been discovered. Neutrinos are only affected by the weak subatomic force, and pass freely through matter.

 

 

Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

Why is it so difficult to think in Higher Dimensions?


Humans can only perceive three dimensional space but theoretical math works out just fine when manipulating objects in four or more spacial dimensions. Mathematicians, scientists and philosophers still debate whether higher spacial dimensions actually exist.

It’s hard to imagine higher dimensions. Even one additional spatial dimension is hard to see with your inner mind’s eye. If you want to imagine six, seven or eight spacial dimensions it isn’t just hard – no one’s even truly conceptualized hyperspace. It’s what makes the subject compelling but also what makes it frustrating to talk about. The examples theorists are able to use to help people “visualize” what can’t be seen must work within human limitations, and are thus second and third dimensional examples of a higher dimensional concept or object.

“Wait a second,” some of you are wondering, “Isn’t TIME the fourth dimension?”
This article is about spacial dimensions only. Personally, I agree with Amrit Sorli and Davide Fiscaletti’s work which I feel adequately proves that time is NOT a spacial dimension. If you want to debate this issue further, you can read my reasoning in my follow up piece, Time: fourth dimension or nah?, also available on Cosmoso.net

One of the most basic exercises in multidimensional theory is to imagine moving in a fourth. The distance between you and everything around you stays the same but in some fourth dimension you are moving. Most people can’t truly do this imagination game because there in nothing in our three spacial dimensions to compare the experience to.

Flatland_sphereFlatland

In the famous book about spacial dimensions, Flatland, living, two-dimensional beings existed in a universe that was merely two dimensions.  A being with three dimensions, such as a sphere, would appear as a circle able to change circumference as it moved through a third dimension no one in flatland has ever conceptualized.

Humans evolved to notice changes in our three-dimensional environment, inheriting our ancestors ability to conceptualize space in three dimensions as a hardwired trait that actually stops us from conceptualizing other aspects of reality that might nonetheless  exist. Other people see hyperspace as a theoretical construct of mathematics that doesn’t describe anything in reality, pointing to the lack of evidence of other dimensions.

Tesseracts Predate Computer-assisted Modelling.

A Tesseract. Many people in the advanced math classrooms of my generation of high school students struggled to wrap their heads around tesseracts without moving diagrams. If a picture is worth a thousand words are we talking animated gifs and words used to describe three dimensional space or should we make up a new saying?

We are able to conceptualize three dimensions in the abstract when we watch TV, look at a painting, or play a video-game. Anytime we look at a screen we watch a two dimensional image from a point outside that dimension. Having an outside point of view for a three dimensional space could give us a way to artificially understand a higher spatial dimension. Until that time comes, we are sort of stuck explaining fourth dimensions by demonstrating how it would look on a two dimensional screen which we view from a third dimensional viewpoint.

It’s kind of like imagining “one million”; you can prove it mathematically to yourself, you can count to it and you know how valuable it is but you can’t truly picture one million of anything. Trying to explain this conceptualization problem with words is pretty tough because your brain is not equipped to handle it. Humans try to wrap their minds around it and dream up ways to explain hyperspace to each other anyways.

4D Rubix Puzzle

A rubix cube is particularly compelling as a multi-dimensional teaching tool, because it puts spacial dimensions in the abstract in the first place, and then gives the cube the ability to change the dimensional orientation of a third of it’s mass. It’s hard to wrap your head around a normal three dimensional rubix puzzle. By adding another dimension and using the same principle, one can ALMOST imagine that fourth spacial dimension. Most people can’t solve a three dimensional Rubix puzzle but if you think you are ready for the fourth dimension, you can download it and play it on your two dimensional screen, here: Magic Cube 4D

If you don’t think you’re ready to try and solve that puzzle but you want to know more you can watch this roughly 1/2 hour video about it:

Miegakure

While Miegakure is still under development, it’s set for release in 2015. Interactive games like this can spur collaborative thinking from a larger pool of collaborators – and make game developers tons of money.

If you want something a little less abstract than Rubix, check out this prototype for Miegakure, the surreal PlayStation 4 game that lets the user explore a four dimensionally capable world through three dimensional spaces that connect to each other through higher dimensions. It’s a great idea that makes everyone have the initial thought of wondering how the heck they coded it. Then the idea sinks in and you realize they wrote the code first and played with the visual manifestation as they went. It’s a great metaphor for the idea in the first place; begins as a concept rather than an observation. The essence of the argument against hyperspace actually existing is the lack of physical evidence. Unlike a ghost story or a spiritual, religious attempt to explain the supernatural, there is actually mathematical evidence that seems to make higher dimensions possible. It has logical evidence as opposed to empirical data. There are ways to observe without using human senses but it’s difficult to prove an observation of something the majority of humans have trouble even seeing with their mind’s eye, so to speak.

One day we might be able to use technology to increase our understanding of this abstract concept, and manipulate an entirely new kind of media. For now we are stuck with two and three dimensional visual aids and an mental block put in place by aeons of evolution.

 Read More about Hyperspace on Cosmoso.net~!
Jonathan Howard
Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY
Recent News for Earth
X
  • How the Moon Was Formed
  • PEEK UNDERGROUND WHEN A MISSILE OR METEOR STRIKES EARTH


     

    In a demented kind of way, when either a missile or a meteor strikes Earth, as much havoc as it can cause, it is pretty exciting. While the destruction it can cause above ground is fairly apparent, there is a whole three-ring circus going on underground that is a bit more difficult to see. But physicists at Duke University have come up with special techniques that have fitted them with the means to simulate high-speed impacts in artificial soil and sand, and observe the underground ramifications in slower-than-slow motion.

    One discovery that they have come up with via their lab experiments is that upon such forceful impact, soil and sand indeed become stronger the harder they are struck. This unearthing serves to explain why efforts to force ground-penetrating missiles deeper underground by just shooting at them more quickly and with greater impact don’t really pan out. In reality, projectiles come against resistance to a greater extent and will actually stop before their strike speed has a chance to reach full throttle.

    THE EXPERIMENT

    In order to replicate the occurrence of a missile or meteor thrashing into soil or sand, the scientists plummeted a metal projectile with an orb-shaped tip from 7 feet above into a pit of beads. Upon impact, the kinetic energy of the projectile was taken on by the beads and dissipated as the beads bumped into one another below the surface, absorbing the energy and force of the collision.

    To visualize this force as it moved away from the point of the crash, the researchers employed beads that were made of clear plastic which transmit light differently when compacted. When observed through polarizing filters such as those found in regular sunglasses, the portions of greatest stress showed up as branching chains of light referred to as “force chains” that move from one bead to the next during the impact, akin to lightening bolts that zig-zag their way across the sky.

    The metal projectile plunged into the vat of beads at a speed of 6 meters/second, or close to 15 MPH. Via the use of beads of varying hardness, the researchers made it possible to trigger pulses that rippled through the beads at speeds ranging from 67 to 670 MPH. At low speeds, a small number of beads carried the brunt of the force, and at higher speeds the “force chains” grew more extensive, resulting in the energy of the crash to move away from the point of the collision a lot more quickly than predicted by previous models. New contacts are generated between the beads at higher rates of acceleration as they are pressed together, and that is the cause for strengthening the material.

    TO SUM IT UP

    Said co-author Abram Clark, currently a postdoctoral researcher in mechanical engineering at Yale University:

    “Imagine you’re trying to push your way through a crowded room…If you try to run and push your way through the room faster than the people can rearrange to get out of the way, you’re going to end up applying a lot of pressure [to] and ramming into a lot of angry people!”

    Mars isn’t a One Way Trip Anymore


    150 Cubic Meters of Ice Means a powerful rocket fuel can be synthesized on Mars – powerful enough to escape Mars gravity for the return trip to Earth.

    Turns out Mars has 150 billion cubic-meters worth of ice that’s been frozen for so long it’s covered with Mars’ ubiquitous red soil. NASA knows this because of  radar measurements from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The ice is spread out among a few ginormous belts made of countless glaciers.

    There’s been evidence of a once liquid ocean on Mars’ surface.  Curiosity rover found riverbeds back in September 2012 with NASA able to estimate two pints of water for every cubic-foot of soil. In early 2014, Spanish researchers were able to prove glaciers dug canyons 3.7 billion years ago. Water leaves chemical byproducts of various reactions and residues.

    No one expected such a big find, except maybe anyone who saw the Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Total Recall.

    If you are wondering where Total Recall got the idea for underground glaciers, scientists  have suspected glacial activity below the Martian surface for decades. The debate centered around formations that would not be abel to hodl their particular shape without glacial activity but was the frozen material water ice, dry ice, or a muddy mix of red dust and water or some other frozen gas or liquid.

     

    Using logic and science, the evidence available can now be interpreted to be enough to cover Mars with a meter of liquid water, if it melted – and if Mars was completely smooth.

    Glaciers of Mars Image: Mars Digital Image Model, NASA/Nanna Karlsson

     

    “We have looked at radar measurements spanning ten years back in time to see how thick the ice is and how it behaves. A glacier is after all a big chunk of ice and it flows and gets a form that tells us something about how soft it is. We then compared this with how glaciers on Earth behave and from that we have been able to make models for the ice flow.”

    Read Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson entire press release on the subject.

    Water can easily be separated into hydrogen gas and oxygen, making breathable air and a powerful rocket fuel that can be used for other space missions, including a return trip to Earth. Water can also be used to cultivate food and animal crops on Mars, making colonization a hell of a lot more appealing.

    Oh, and one more thing:

    Jonathan Howard
    Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY

    Physics Concepts Intuitively Understood Through Skateboarding


    People constantly manipulate technology without formal training but are not always able to explain what they know.

    You probably aren’t surprised skateboarders haven’t been using proper physics terms to teach each other sick tricks. Try to wrap your head around Taylor Bray wrapping the board around his front foot while also turning his body around 360 degrees in this short youtube video:

    Sometimes it’s almost like only the skater knows what’s going on with the board. As if to prove my point, the title of this video was written by someone who can’t even seem to label the trick. When I was a kid, wrapping the board around your foot like that was called an “impossible”. I originally encountered the clip on facebook with the trick labeled “front foot impossible craze”, making a total of three attempts to describe how Taylor Bray is spinning his body and the skateboard.

    Here are some physics concepts Bray obviously understands without having to verbally prove himself:

    Leverage. Most flip tricks start with an ollie, leveraging the board up into the air by tapping the end hard against the ground.

    Friction. The top of the skateboard has grip tape to increase friction and make it stick to the soft rubber sneakers. The bottom of the skateboard has wheels to make it roll back and forth but not slide as much side to side. This trick doesn’t play to much with sliding friction but tons of tricks play with the various levels of slipperiness and stickiness a skateboard offers.

    Potential energy. Bray is popping the board up with an Ollie but there’s also. A newer skateboard deck has “pop” which is basically when the wood is at its most springy. By kicking the board hard against the “ground”(in this case, the ramp), he can make the board bounce up into the air with him when he jumps. The more a skateboard is used it loses its pop.

    Gravity. That brief instant where he kicks the end of the board into the ground allows him to jump and escape gravity. An Ollie let’s him bring the board up with him. Gravity always pulls things down at the same rate, making it easy to estimate how much time Bray has to perform the trick. The subsequent slow motion shots of the same trick allow the viewer to analyze the trick but the first version in the clip shows how fast gravity pulls Bray back toward the Earth, giving him about one second to pull off the impossible.

    More rolling friction. When he gets the board in the air, he rolls it around his front foot. This trick was called an “impossible” when I was a kid in the 90’s but it’s basically wrapping the board around his front foot using rolling friction.

    Inertia. Bray is using inertia in several ways. He is using the speed he has to travel up the ramp against gravity. He’s using the direction the ramp sent him in to help him continue up into the air after the Ollie. Inertia comes into play in a few small ways while he is in the air manipulating the board with his feet. When he finally lands, he continues in the direction he was already going, and it is important that he points the wheels in the approximate direction of that momentum so his inertia doesn’t throw him off balance.

    Rotation. Bray is analyzing two different axises in quick succession. First he is rolling the skateboard around that foot in a move where the axis is outside the board itself, then he is catching it with his feet and rotating himself and the board on a vertical axis 360 degrees, landing in the same direction he was facing before the trick began.

    In the box above, I stuck to physics concepts. There are additional science concepts at work in this example, such as muscle memory, spatial cognition, coordination, time perception and sense of balance.

    A really common technical flip trick is the 360 flip. A 360 flip spins the board on 2 axises at once. In order to perform the move, a skateboarder has to conceptualize the simultaneous rotations before actually kicking them into place, and the rotations are often too complex for a layman to follow.

    The next age of enlightenment could require humans to quickly communicate complicated concepts despite only possessing an intuitive understanding.

    Consciousness and the human brain is a relatively young field of study. We are starting to understand what is happening in the brain when we perform complex physical tasks like a frontside 360 front foot impossible. Soon we might be able to identify the intuitive understanding of the related physics concepts and allow someone like Bray to access the verbal explanations of these physical principles as freely as he applies them to reality.

    I’ll leave Cosmoso.net readers with this thought about language in skateboarding:

    In the 90's, a newer, more symmetrical skateboard design allowed for a new school of technical flip tricks. As designs do when they've reached near perfection, the new school skateboard changes within a very narrow parameter based on current trends in skateboarding - the design has plateaued. Skate tricks are a folk art that are learned from advice from peers and pros. The communication about how to pull off a given trick comes in the form of an esoteric language that changes over time. The names for new and developing styles of tech tricks are different in different social circles, evolve and change over time, and seldom utilize proper physics vocabulary. Skateboarding remains a great way to demonstrate intuitively understood, applied physics.

     

    Jonathan Howard
    Jonathan is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY