Monday, July 16, 2012

What Is Time?

When looking back on the last operation I had, I remembered the strange feeling of being awake one minute on the operation table and giggling as the anesthesia kicked in, then waking up in a completely different room, with a tube down my throat. I had no idea wether I had been unconcious for hours or minutes. I had no sense of time at all. There is something about being unconsious that strips humans of our sense of time. When our minds are functioning we can feel time passing and see it happening around us. But when our minds are shut off, wether it be by chemical influence such as anesthesia, or during the early stages of a very deep sleep we have no sense of time at all. This begs the question, is time ONLY in our heads?
To me, my perception of time is my ability to make and store new memories and differenciate between the old and the new. I understand time when I compare a string of at least two memories. These memories don't have to be significant, they can be as simple as me stumbling out of bed and eating a bowl of cerial. When I compare those memories I remember that I got out of bed first and thanks to the numbers that we humans of put forth I can infer that it was about twenty minutes later when I started to eat. The recognition between old and new on the linear plane of memories is what gives humans our sense of time. So, if time is putting a specific label (how old or how new) on memories is it possible that without memories we would be frozen in time?
The answer to my own question is yes. We would be metaphorically frozen in time. The minute you lose your ability to form new memories is the minute that you stop recognizing that time is passing, that minutes and seconds are going by and that things are happening around you and changing. The best example I can think of to paint a picture of exactly how important memory formation is to our perception of time is from something I saw on Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. A man who suffered from epilepsy had his hypocampus removed. This stopped the epilepsy but also stopped his ability to remember anything after his surgery. After years of repeating the same things day after day (because he could never remember what he did the day before) the man could not reckognize himself in the mirror. His body was experiancing time but his mind was stuck. According to his mind he was still the man he was on the day of his surgery.

Maybe time is in our heads after all and the only reason that time exists is because humans are here to measure it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Motivation and Inspiration

The most astounding fact about the universe is talked about here. This video is so beautifully done, the videos, animation, photography, music, and narration are all done perfectly in my opinion and all of those qualities are what make this such an inspiring video. I don't even know what it inspires me to do it just makes me happy and is so moving that it shocks me, and makes me want to be a better person.

This next video is what motivates me. First of all, boxing is one of my favorite ways to stay in shape. I would like to be able to fight but I am not allowed to so for now I can only train. This video motivates me to hit the bags every chance I get. If this guy can transform himself into a fighter without even having a bed to sleep in, then I should be able to fight too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Life Heals... Now, So Do Hydrogels

Something that scientists have been trying to replicate for years is a living thing's ability to heal itself and thus sustain repeated damage. Now, thanks to bioengineers at the University of California there is a jello like substance that reforms after being pulled apart. The substance is called Hydrogel and thanks to its high water content it is able to mimic flexibility and other textural qualities of biological matter.

Hydrogels are semi-solid, gummy-bear-like squishy materials made of chains of hydrophilic polymer molecules. Hydrophilic polymers contain polar functional groups which makes them water soluble. 
The hydrophilic quality makes them a good analog for natural tissues so they often have medical applications.
One use of hydrogel shown here is scar reduction.

The team at the University of California realized that the key to making the hydrogels self heal was giving the polymer chains a way to latch back on to each other if ripped apart or damaged. The solution is what they call "dangling side chains". They are finger like structures of hydrophilic polymer that reach off the main structure of polymers and act as something to grab on to. Another posotive trait of the self healing gel is that when pH of the solution it is in is lower, the bond becomes stronger between polymers. This will be ideal for suturing in the stomach, or creating containers for holding acidic materials.

The video below shows and explains how two pieces of the gel, when split apart, can put themselves back together with a little help. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Less Sci-Fi Based Weapon of the Future

The last time I made a blog post I talked about how the laser should be the weapon of the future. It is not wasting a projectile or using dangerous chemicals (gunpoweder) to propell it, but is just energy. I still stand by what I said, however, it is not yet completely within our grasp to be able to not fire a projectile at the enemy. That is why I want to tweek what I said last week by adding that the laser is the weapon of the distant future. A weapon that I am seeing as being part of the near future is the Electromagnetic Railgun.
The railgun is futuristic because it does not use chemicals as its propellant, but instead uses electricity. The reason it is just futuristic enough to be in the near future (in my opinion) is that it still fires a projectile. According to Popular Science, the U.S Navy recently put a prototype of a 32 megajoule railgun through some tests and it completed the tests surprisingly well. The Navy's futuristic weapon is capable of firing a large metal projectile at speeds of 5,600 mph and someday its makers think that when attatched to battleships it will be able to fire the projectile 50 to 100 nautical miles. Where does this energy come from? Well its in the name, 32 MEGAJOULES IS A LOT OF ENERGY. To put it in perspective, 1 megajoule is equivalent to a 1,000 pound car thrust at 100 mph. Multiply that by 32 and you have got a stupid amount of energy!!!
One of the railguns being tested,_located_on_board_the_Naval_Surface_Warfare_Center_Dahlgren_Division,_is_operational.jpg
How do these work? Two long, conductive rods are laid down parallel to eachother. An armature, or a solid piece of conductive metal bridges the gap between the two rods. A current is run through the positive rod and the current goes up the rod, across the armature, down the negative rod and back into the power source. A magnetic field forms around each rod, around the positive rod it spins counter clockwise and around the negative rod it spins clockwise. A projectile which is laid inbetween the two rods experiances a force called the Lorentz force which runs perpendicular to the magnetic field and in the direction of the armature. railgun is powerful but it requires a lot of energy to shoot a projectile.

Above are two videos displaying the power of the prototype railgun. Clearly, this weapon has a lot of potential if it is firing chunks of metal that big, that fast, without dangerous chemicals. My question is will this weapon pass all of its tests and eventually be implemented on to the battleships and maybe even planes of the U.S Navy and Airforce? Or should the Defense branaches of the U.S Army stick with the dangerous chemically powered weapons that have brought our so far?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Laser is the Weapon of the Future

If you ask me, I say that weapons these days are inefficient. If we are talking about missiles, each costs more than a mini-van and it only works one time. The problem I have with that is, the missile is weighing down the jets that carry it thousands of miles (sometimes) just to be fired once. Although missile technology has gotten far more deadly, they still won’t always hit their target and do their job.

Missiles are not the only inefficient killing device that our world has come to use. Guns, and more specifically bullets, are even more inefficient that missiles because one missile can kill many bad guys who are spread out over a larger area. A bullet is lucky to hit one man, and the further away from the target that the bullet is fired, the less chance it has to kill. A missile can be fired from a distance that is great enough to keep the person firing it safe, while effectively killing or injuring the enemy.

 I like the saying from the movie Iron Man which was something like, “I prefer the weapon that you only have to fire once.” However, even this saying I have a bit of an issue with because it isn’t clear who should be killed in that one firing. I would improve that saying by adding that you only have to fire it once to kill all the bad guys, or targets you want.

Cool clip from Iron Man^^

I want to focus more on guns and how I would improve them because my knowledge of missiles is less than my knowledge of guns. Guns have huge kickback, they jam easily, must be cleaned, they are only useful if being wielded by an accurate shooter, they can backfire, and they have a limited amount of ammunition. The limited ammunition is my biggest issue with weapons these days. If a soldier runs out of bullets he has lost his best chance at killing, and his best form of protection. So what could we do to make bullets obsolete, and make guns more deadly?

LASER GUNS! Why not go in the science fiction direction? Laser technology is already at a place where lasers can be fired from planes that have controlled amounts of power from lethal to nonlethal. Another advantage is that they can be precisely targeted, and since the lasers are beams of high energy light they travel at the speed of light. Lasers are also silent, unlike the way they are portrayed in movies. So, when fired they would not give away a soldiers position.

Here is an image of an airborne laser. This airborne laser is capable of locating in flight missiles and shooting high energy lasers at the missile which cause it to explode. I believe, that like all other technology it will get smaller and smaller until it is capable of being held by one man and fired to kill or stun or even injure another man.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Aerodynamics of Flight

There are 4 main forces that affect a flying object. Lift, which is created by the wings, happens when more pressure in the air is bellow an object than above it. When the wings of a plane create more pressure bellow the plane than above it the pressure forces the plane up. Lift is generated from the wings of a plane and allows the plane to fly. Some might say that the turbine, or jet engine is what allows a plane to fly but this is incorrect. The turbine is what drives the plane forward. I think about it like this, if a plane had no wings, but it did have a turbine it would just be a really fast car. Hangliding is another way to show that the wings allow the plane to fly. Hang-gliding is the act of launching oneself from a steep incline and soaring through the air by using a hang-glider which is a pair of V shaped wings under which a pilot is strapped. Hangliders have no engines but they are able to fly.

Wings are shaped like an airfoil which forces air to pass under the wing more slowely than the air that passes over the wing. The air under the wing moves slower and has more pressure. Therefore it creates an upword thrust to lift up the plane.

Thrust is the force that drives the plane forward. The thrust is generated by turbines or prepellers of a plane. Thrust is necessary to allow a plane to continue to fly. Without thrust a plane would fall to the ground. Take a hang-glider for example, since it has no thrust it cannot make 5 hour flights like airplanes with turbines can. So, it is clear that lift and thrust are the two forces that help a plane fly forward.
The two forces that do the opposite of lift and thrust are weight and drag. The weight pulls the plane down and can counteract the lift of the wings if it is too much. The gross weight is the plane's weight plus everything on board. In order for a plane to fly the lift must be greater than or equal to the gross weight. If the weight is more than the lift the plane will not be able to fly.

Drag is the force that opposes thrust. Drag happens simply because the plane exists and is moving. Drag happens because the air is resisting the sudden push that it gets from the plane. Planes constantly are pushing air out of the way and are transfering energy into that air. As a result, energy is lost and we call that drag. Thrust must be greater than or equal to drag in order for the plane to fly.

So my concern comes in in the lift and weight area. If not only wing span was longer but also the width of the wings was bigger in commercial airplanes, it would allow more seating (directly in the wings) which would increase the weight, but it would also increase the lift. I think one day commercial airplanes should have wings like a B-2 stealth bomber. 

My knowlege of math is nowhere close to being able to calculate if wings like that would create lift greater than or equal to the weight. However, when i can calculate whether this is true or not, I will write about it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why Do Clouds Form Around Fast Flying Jets?

Breaking the Sound Barrier

The capabilities of fighter jets these days are awesome. Breaking the sound barrier seems easily achieved for many fighter jets. However, these days the military seems to be making more stealth planes/bombers and those cannot break the sound barrier because the sonic boom would defeat their purpose. Sound travels at about 760 mph. When a plane goes that fast it causes both visual and audible effects. There is one effect that I want to focus on; that skirt of water vapor that forms around the tail end of the jet in the picture. Why does this happen? When a jet goes that fast it is pushing the air around it away and creating more pressure in certain areas around the plane.

In this picture of a bullet traveling at high speeds, you can see the bends that the bullet is causing. As the bullet travels quickly it pushes the air in front of it out of the way. Pushing the air causes more air to be around the sides of the bullet. The same happens to a jet. Since jets are so large, when they create pressure waves they are condensing a lot more air in a given place than a bullet can. So, if the air in which the plane is flying is very moist, the moisture is condensed under the pressure of the air. The plane forms enough pressure that the water condenses into a temporary cloud around the area where the pressure is high enough to condense the water. I say temporary, because the cloud is only forming because of the intense air pressure caused by the jet traveling at very high speeds. The cloud forms, dissipates and reforms which makes it look like its moving as the plane moves. As soon as the plane’s speed drops below the sound barrier it does not create enough pressure in the air to condense water so the cloud would no longer be visible.

This image depicts the pressure wave well, calling it a shock wave which is similar to a pressure wave. As you can see in the picture a cone shape forms as the plane flies. At low altitudes, the air is filled with water vapor from evaporation, humans breathing, sweating, plants giving off water and so on. In previous blog posts I explained how cars could run on water in the future. If there is water in the air, could we use that for energy? Someday, could planes run on the moisture of the air?!