Thursday, December 8, 2011

Don't Pee In Your Gas Tank...Yet

This summer, I think I am going to build a welding torch. Not just any old oxy-acetylene, ARC, or MIG welding torch though. I am going to build a welding torch that’s fuel is water. Think about my last post, when I said that hydrogen and oxygen, the two elements that make up water are so flammable that they are sometimes used in rocket ships. In rocket ships the hydrogen and oxygen are used in liquid form which requires a lot of chemicals to keep them in that state, it is very dangerous because one spark and its Apollo 13 all over again, and you need high pressure tanks to hold them. To be safer and smarter, I plan to make the hydrogen and oxygen from water, so the two elements are delivered to the nozzle of the welding torch as a gas. This is no easy task, splitting water molecules, because hydrogen and oxygen are covalently bonded.

So, how could you break the strong bonds of the hydrogen to the oxygen? Give it a lot of energy. The electron of hydrogen is shared with oxygen and doesn’t have enough energy to escape from the oxygen. So, if enough energy is transferred into the water molecule it will excite the electrons enough to allow the hydrogen to yank itself free from the overwhelming attraction to oxygen. Then you have got 2 elements, perfect for welding. The process of splitting water using electricity (the energy) is called electrolysis.
Awesome video of a homemade HHO welding torch

This shows the power of the flame that is created when hydrogen and oxygen react. The Dr. Pepper can was in front of the flame for a few seconds and a slit was melted in its side easily. The energy from the reaction should be harnessed and like I mentioned in my last post, I think it should be used to power cars. The coolest part about a water powered car or any HHO flame for that matter is that its only emission is be water vapor.
Only emitting water vapor is truly awesome compared to the crap that comes out of car's tale pipes these days. In a water powered car, if you could find a way to loop the exhaust pipe back into the water tank in a safe way, the car would make one tank of water last a long time by recycling its exhaust. There is one huge problem, it takes a substantial amount of energy to break the bonds of hydrogen and oxygen, so much energy that any resulting energy you would get from recombining them would be less then what it took to split them.
In a recent discovery inventor Denny Klein found a way to perform electrolysis in a way that would use less energy. Here’s a video clip on the new discovery.  

In that video, listen closely if you missed it just after 1:30…
You can hear the inventor clearly say that a 100 mile trip uses about 4 OUNCES of water! 128 fluid ounces = 1 fluid gallon. According to that conversion factor you would get aproximately 3200 miles out of one gallon of water. This discovery is truly revolutionary and could really change the world if we use it correctly.
Some draw backs could be that we might find ourselves running low on water because if this technology catches on, cars all over the world would be using up fresh water and that would leave us pretty thirsty.

Sitting on my couch thinking of ways that we could make water a priority for Mankind first, cars second, I found a creative solution to the problem. I remembered that NASA uses a technology to convert urine into drinking water.

 The link to the news article on Nasa’s Urine to water filter.
 I understand if you're skeptical here because it does sound gross that astronauts are drinking their own pee. However, if you think about it, urine is nothing more than water with some nitrogenous waste, salts, and other dead cells and waste that the body is getting rid of by filtering them out in the kidneys. So, since NASA has found a way to filter out the unwanted molecules, all they have to do now is install one into the opening of the gas tank of the water powered car so that all pee or water passing through could be filtered. I am suggesting that cars run on urine, a very environmentally friendly idea. If the water powered car idea catches on quickly enough my future kids could be peeing into the gas tank if they’re running low on water! Then the only problem we would be dealing with would be where to dumb the excess of filtered waste coming from the pee.

Maybe homes could have a designated toilet for urinating where the waste could be flushed with small amounts of toilet water and stored under the garage so that all homes could have a fuel pump in their garage. That waste could even be filtered in the toilet and turned into pure water so that the car wouldn’t have to waste energy on filtering the urine.

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With an in home pump, people wouldn’t have to pee in public. But, I think that the car should have a urine-to-water filter just in case you run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and need a few more miles out of your thirsty old car.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Water Just Does Not Want To Burn

Since I was about four years old and first started to play with matches I have been a pyromaniac. Not a crazy one who burns down buildings but more of a scientific pyromaniac who builds foundries and smelters and just enjoys a good backyard bonfire.

When I first started being interested in fire I could never understand why water isn’t flammable. I put flaming matches, candles and pieces of paper into buckets of water and over many trials I found the data to be conclusive: water definitely isn’t flammable. At that time I was only curious because everything else seemed to be pretty flammable but water was the only thing I tried to light that didn’t catch or even blacken in the flame.

As I got older and learned that water was made of Hydrogen and Oxygen, the fact that water wouldn’t catch flame made even less sense to me.
(Red are oxygen white are hydrogen)

Now that I am in high school Chemistry I know that Oxygen has 6 valence electrons and Hydrogen has 1, so two Hydrogen atoms want to bond with an Oxygen atom to reach a stable octet: when there are 8 valence electrons. If not bonded Hydrogen and Oxygen together are flammable…very very very flammable… As in flammable enough to be the fuel for some rocket ships.

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The way I think of it is that the statement, “if not bonded Hydrogen and Oxygen together are flammable” gives away the reason why water isn’t flammable. Water is the product of hydrogen and oxygen burning. Try sticking a match into a pile of dry ash and it will go out. Stick a match into water and it will go out. Water is basically ash! It is the product of burning so it cannot burn more and more importantly it has reached a stable octet and has 8 total valence electrons and CANNOT accept anymore.

In fire, molecules or atoms are combining with oxygen to form new compounds. Water cannot combine with oxygen because water is already stable and does not want to bond to anything else.
As shown in the excellent image above, water has charged ends. The hydrogen are positive because they gave away their one electron to bond to oxygen and now have more protons. The oxygen is negative because it gained two electrons from the hydrogen so the oxygen has more electrons than protons and is negative. These charges give water some of the characteristics that make life possible: adhesion and cohesion. I think one day all cars should run on water, but that’s an idea for another post so I’ll leave my reader curious for one more week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So Long Planet Earth

I often worry about what the world will come to in the future. In my opinion, millions or billions of years down the line so many problems that we are responsible for like pollution, deforestation, and wiping out hundreds of species will catch up to us.
Even if we didn’t pollute, and we lived in perfect harmony with nature, life on earth would still cease to exist at some point in time. I often forget that earth is not a permanent home for humans, it cannot be. Whether our sun goes out, a meteor kills us like it did the dinosaurs, our atmosphere gets to thin, or the earth’s molten core cools, earth will become uninhabitable at some time.
Some factors that we can control to prolong earth’s life sustaining abilities are the amounts of pollution and deforestation and energy that we use. If we control the amount of energy that we use a bit more, maybe we could lower pollution levels. I read in a popular science magazine that the oceans are actually absorbing the pollution from our cars and other appliances. Some may think that’s a good thing, that if it is out of the sky it won’t affect us. WRONG. The immense amount of carbon based pollution that is given off from our cars and homes is enough to change the pH balance of the ocean. When enough carbon is mixed with water, it becomes carbonic acid. In my opinion, if pollution is drastically decreased, the ocean might become acidic by 2050. I don’t think it will be enough to melt a swimmer’s skin off, but it will be enough to kill ocean life.
Another ocean problem that I want to briefly cover is dead zones. According to Jennifer Kennedy of, “A 'dead zone' is an area of low oxygen, where marine life can't thrive. The dead zone may be caused by an excess of nutrients (eutrophication) that results in a decrease in dissolved oxygen. The best example of a dead zone in the U.S. is the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, which occurs each year in the late spring and summer.”
But enough about earth’s problems, I want some solutions. For the long run, I think the only thing we can do is build a massive space ship, and put select members of the human race into it to pass down only the best genes that will be necessary for life in space. I don’t think we should just fly around in circles like idiots in space though, we need to find another planet that can sustain complex life.
Gliese 581 d, may be that planet. “New measurements of the planet's orbit place it firmly in a region where conditions would be right for liquid water, and thus life as we know it, astronomer Michel Mayor, from Geneva University in Switzerland.” This is a pretty exciting discovery, but one huge problem with Gliese 581 d is that it is over 20 light years away which is about 120 TRILLION miles.
Great video about traveling to Gliese 581 d.

The narrator of this video said that a journey to gliese 581 d on the fastest man made object, Voyager 1 which travels through space at a brisk 11 miles per second would still take over 350,000 years. However, knowing the flaws of the human race, it would not take 350,000 years for something to go wrong on that ship. We need to advance our technology so that one day we could travel at or faster that the speed of light. A twenty year trip doesn’t seem so bad when the other option is a 350,000 year trip.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Great Wall and the Great Vacuum

Thinking of something to build over the summer, I thought it would be cool if I could build a vacuum chamber. How could I build something like that?

While seeing that it requires many gauges, pumps, and nozzles, I realized that I didn’t really want to build one even though it would be a cool project in the end. Besides, what would I do with a vacuum chamber? Anyway, I had put a lot into thinking about what it would take to build a vacuum chamber as efficiently as possible. The container would have to be very sturdy and solid so that it would not give way to the intense suction inside the chamber. The solidity and strength of the material that made the chamber would have to withstand the pressure of atoms wanting to go from higher concentration outside to lower concentration inside the chamber, or diffuse.
(cellular) Diffusion
Then as I kept thinking about what it would take to build a vacuum chamber, I started to think about the biggest vacuum chamber of all, space.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, Membrane Theory, there is not just one universe, what we live in is a multiverse, with millions of universes in it. I also mentioned that a “Big Bang” happens when walls of a universe collide and send strings of matter out into each universe in a violent, hot instant. That would mean that the universe has an end! In our unfathomably large universe there is a wall that separates outside from inside. If you think about it, of course there is, because if there was no wall separating outside the universe from inside the universe we wouldn’t have a vacuum. Even if we didn’t already know that we live in a multiverse and that the big bang happened from walls of universes colliding it would make sense to think that the universe needs a barrier to keep in the matter. If the universe didn’t end, and was infinite, that would be another story. If there was an infinite amount of space and the same amount of matter that we know exists, wouldn’t the vacuum be stronger? Think of it like pulling back on a syringe that is clogged at the end it takes air in. It would get harder and harder to pull back because the negative pressure would get more and more intense.
Wouldn’t the power of the vacuum be strong enough to rip atoms away from each other and counteract the effects of gravity if the universe were infinite?
Video of marshmallows in a vacuum chamber

In this video, the marshmallows expand as the pressure decreases then when pressure increases again, the marshmallows shrink back down into normal size. This is a great model of what happens to anything as pressure increases or decreases. The increase in pressure would put more weight on each part of an object, lets say a marshmallow, and push every part of it uniformly to create a more compact marshmallow. If pressure decreases the marshmallow is pulled evenly on all sides to make a puffier, larger mushroom with a lot more empty space in it.

Therefore, one of the reasons we are able to have stars and planets and gatherings of matter in our universe is that the vacuum’s pressure is just right to allow for gravity to bring gas into a dense cloud until the friction among atoms causes ignition. The pressure is also just right enough to allow gravity to make planets. And thanks to the very sturdy wall of our universe that not only collided with another to cause the big bang and give us all the matter we know of, but also acts as a great barrier to keep in our matter and keep us at the perfect pressure.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Membrane Theory

Although gravity may seem to be a force overcome with strength for keeping the world orbiting around the sun or drawing massive bodies close to one another, it is actually quite feeble. Every day we walk, jump and easily circumvent gravities pull. One way to show how weak gravity is is by putting a paper clip on a counter top and using a magnet to pull the paper clip through the air and up onto the magnet. Even a small magnets electromagnetic force can easily circumvent gravity. Think about the strong force of atoms.
Image (1) from
Image (2) from

The strong force holds protons and neutrons together with so much force that when we use unstable atoms to give protons the energy they need to escape strong force’s grasp we get an atom bomb. The electromagnetic force means that like charges repel. So ++ and -- repel. The strong force is what keeps the protons in the nucleus.             
                Why though is gravity so weak? String theory states that all matter is made up of tiny vibrating strings. A more recent development in string theory was that our universe is many strings conjoined and connected to make one huge, moving membrane. This addition to string theory became known as membrane theory, or M theory. Well, thanks to string theory we know that there are eleven dimensions in the universe. Some are so small that they are trillionths of millimeters across.
Image of many conjoined strings in a large rippling membrane 
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         Some scientists had a thought that gravity was being diluted into all of these dimensions. But others thought that maybe gravity wasn’t being diluted within our universe, maybe gravity was leaking into our universe. In a parallel membrane, or universe, gravity would be as strong as the other forces, but by the time it reached us it would be a fraction of what it used to be. Physicists started to get behind this idea and did the math to prove that parallel universes were leaking gravity into our own and they found that the math worked. Scientists were finding more and more parallel membranes which were taking on many different shapes and sizes.
           The universes rush around, filled with energy. The membranes will often collide with considerable force and since they are made of the tiny strings that are vibrating, they membranes could collide at different places and at different times, rippling into one another violently. This would release tremendous amounts of energy in a big bang. The tiny strings would be ripped out of the membrane and shot into the empty universe and the strings would want to come back together. When they did meet again, they created matter. The ripples of the membranes that hit at different points at different times give explanation to clumps of matter in the universe. If the membranes didn’t ripple and were flat, all matter in the universe would be clumped together from the start. Thanks to the ripples the matter was spread out just right. Another phenomenon that may have happened during the collision is that forces from one universe may leak into the other very rapidly. Therefore, gravity from another universe may have spilled into ours.

Image shows rippling membranes about to collide

           There could be universes out there that have laws that are nothing like the laws of physics of our own universe. There is an infinite number of parallel universes which means that there is an infinite number of universes that can support inelegant life. So, there could be parallel universes out there that are exactly the same as ours, the only difference being, you are not there.
 (I apologize to all of my readers for having a bad picture to word ratio in this post. There are not many pictures that portray Membranes well because it is a relatively new theory and is hard to put into picture form.)

Wormholes... Tomorow's Airplane

Time was really first described as tangible when Einstein described space time in his theory of relativity. Before that time was thought to be an idea made by humans on earth for humans on earth to make life more organized. Einstein showed that the dimensions of space were woven with another dimension; time. This “Space Time” is thought to be a multidimensional fabric that supports all matter in the universe. If an object is big enough it can stretch the fabric of space time which will then cause a gravitational pull.
Image from
What is a fabric?
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It’s material woven together in a particular pattern. If you zoom in on a fabric enough, you will see the holes and spaces in between the woven materials. So, since space time is a fabric, shouldn’t there be holes and spaces in between dimensions or times that are woven together?
Well, it is a basic physical principle that NOTHING is flat or solid. This principle applies to all matter.

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Take glass for example, to our weak eyes, it is smooth and flawless, but under a powerful microscope plenty of cracks and crevices can be seen. If you zoom in further, there will be even more and more cracks and crevices. If the naked eye could see atoms, we would see that there is a lot of space in between the nucleus and electrons. Because of this space between the nucleus and the electrons, the atoms are not completely solid. Therefore, there will always be space in between the particles so the physical principle that nothing can be flat or solid is true. So, if this is true for all matter, shouldn’t it be true for time?
Image from
The answer to that question is yes. There are tiny crevices, wrinkles, and cracks in time. At the smallest of scales, smaller than molecules, smaller than atoms, is a place called the quantum foam. The quantum foam consists of space and time and there, wormholes are found.
Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear and reform in the quantum foam. The picture properly shoes what a wormhole does to the fabric of space time: it makes a tunnel that links two separate places and two separate times. So, one must ask the question when thinking of wormholes, can you time travel through one? Sadly, these time and space tunnels are only a billion trillion trillionths of a centimeter across, so many of the molecules that make humans function would not fit through. However if we could focus enough energy on one wormhole that scientists miraculously found, then couldn’t we hold it open and possibly enlarge it so that a human or even a spaceship could pass through?
Image from
It seems to be a concept straight out of science fiction movies like Star Wars that we would be able to enlarge a worm hole enough to travel through it to a different space and time. But maybe one day, we will be taking wormholes to visit out of state relatives instead of airplanes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stars: Made by Imperfection

When other galaxies in the universes are examined we can see that their light rays are reaching us stretched out, at lower frequencies. Scientists observed that light rays were being stretched out, so they concluded that the universe was expanding. This is similar to how a speeding car passes you and gets quieter the further away it gets. If the universe were not expanding, gravity would have drawn everything in the universe together and there would be no more planets, or stars, only pressure, and heat, and elements in a very dense, very small object. One day, the energy that drives our universe to constantly expand will succumb to the awesome power of gravity, and everything will slowly start to contract. What gave the universe the energy to expand so rapidly? The big bang.
The theory is that everything in the universe started out in an infinitely dense, infinitely hot mass that was approximately the size of a pebble. What was there besides this pebble sized mass? This is where God comes into the picture for many scientists. To our best knowledge of science we cannot definitively know what there was before the pebble exploded. In a trillion trillionth of a second, the pebble had expanded to astronomical proportions the likes of which are practically unfathomable. The image crudely shows how the universe all started out in the small white hot space, then expanded. Galaxies formed, and the galaxies spread out. Galaxies did not just pop out of this epic explosion, they took billions of years to form.

                Several hundred million years after the big bang, as the universe began to cool down. There were no planets, no light, only vast clouds of gas like the ones below.

                The universe was a dark expanding place filled with gas. The gas was all spread out throughout the universe but thanks to random imperfections, there were some places where gas clouds were denser than others. This allowed gravity to slowly pull gases closer and closer until they became dense, and hot. And God said, “Let there be light”! The gases got so hot at the core that hydrogen atoms began to fuse to make helium which released a great amount of energy and light. The universe was lighting up, gas clouds everywhere were beginning to turn into stars. The reason the gas clouds could form into stars was because of the imperfections in the assortment of gases.

In the picture above all of the white dots are the same distances away from each other, they are organized. Let’s say the gases after the big bang were uniformly distributed among the universe like the dots in the picture. Gravity would not affect their location because each dot, or hydrogen atom, would be pulled equally by the gravity of those around it. Massive gas clouds would not form or condense and there would be no stars.

This is more like what the gases looked like in the early universe. They are random, and some are closer than others. Look, for example, at the upper left corner of dots. There are more up there than, right in the middle. This disorganized arrangement allowed some parts, like the upper left, to have more mass than other parts, like the middle. The gases got closer and closer even drew others closer into hot, huge, and dense masses that would later become stars.
                Why did the imperfections happen? Why did the big bang happen? What was there before the big bang? With questions like these that we cannot answer yet, many give the simple answer that God did it. Although scientists might be able to make new theories to answer the age old questions or disprove our current theories, it will be a long time before we have enough evidence to prove or disprove God’s reality.