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.
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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?
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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?
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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.