Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Science of Interstellar: Miller's world.

The first of the three planets that the main characters of Interstellar visited, Miller's planet rotates close to the massive black hole "Gargantua." Suffering 1.3 times earth's gravity, the planet is covered with liquid and suffers from extreme tides and a reduced time flow, one hour on the surface equaling seven years to the people on earth. Upon looking at different sources, the planet is shaped like a football, one end constantly pointing at the massive black hole, and the massive tidal waves that plague the planet are actually remaining in place, while the planet rotates under them. Personally, I enjoyed the point that was pointed out after they fled the planet. The all clear signal was constant, just stretched out through time from the time dilation of the planet. The scientists had only left earth for two years before a second mission was sent to observe the planets reveals that in reality, Miller had only been on the planet for 17 minutes before Cooper's mission arrived on the planet. (if 60 minutes on Miller's planet is seven years on earth, then two years on earth is 17.1 minutes on Miller's planet). And since the waves only come every half an hour or so (since it took forty five minutes to drain the ship's engines, and the wave came early, so I'm rounding a bit), the wave that killed Miller must have been the receding wave that Cooper saw after landing.

But the more I thought about the physics of this planet, I wanted to bring some knowledge from one of my other classes to the mater: geology, and the science of waves. On earth, the size of waves is generated by wind strength, duration of the wind blowing in a direction, and distance over which the wind blows. In this planet, it was only the gravity generating their waves. It is also worth mentioning that below half the wavelength, there is little to no movement under the water. Once a wave reaches depth that is less than half a wavelength, the wave slows, and the height of the wave increases (which is what happened on Miller's world.) But when the wave becomes too steep, it breaks and crashes in on it'self in the surf zone, which did not happen, even though the wavelength was so low that the wave should have collapsed on itself. So crazy gravity be damned, this is not happening. Especially if it's only 1.3 times earth's gravity!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The necessity of technology in star trek

Space. The final frontier. These are the technologies used aboard the Starship Enterprise. It's a one day assignment: to look at the strange and futuristic technologies aboard the Enterprise, where many men have gone before.

To boldly go where no man has gone before... really slowly.
Okay, with that obligatory reference out of the way, lets get down to business. So the warp drive aboard the Starship Enterprise is pretty important, as it allows all the crazy adventures .. the crew of the Enterprise get themselves into. So let's take an example from the movie we just saw. It took only a few minutes for the Enterprise to reach Vulcan from Earth's orbit. If the Enterprise traveled at the speed of light, the ship would reach Vulcan at the same time earth saw Vulcan be destroyed. And that would take sixteen long years, since Vulcan (according to the not reliable source of the Star Trek Wiki) is sixteen light years away from earth. By that point the Romulans would have destroyed Vulcan and been long gone in their extremely scary looking mining vessel. Not that they'd be going anywhere all that fast either, but...

Dammit man I'm a doctor, not a munition's expert!
Next, the transporter. Standard issue on all Star Fleet ships, the transporter converts a person or object into an energy pattern, and then transports them to the target where it is reconverted into matter. So instead of flying a shuttle all the way down to a planet, finding a place to land, then walking to your destination, you can just be beamed down to exactly where you want to go. How convenient! Also you can apparently warp someone from a planet several light years away from your location, while the ship is moving at light speed. So that's pretty nifty too. But there are some short comings of course. Most of the time the person has to be standing still, unless Pavel Chekov is there to use his skills to warp you back to the ship before you hit the ground. Also, if you're hand is stuck in a missile, you can't warp just the person up. The missile is coming with you.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The moral dilemma of weapons of mass destruction

Through out time, humanity's greatest quest is to develop the bigger stick. There's a reason that ages have been named after the kinds of weapons we have (ie the bronze, stone, iron ages). But when you develop a weapon so powerful it could wipe out an entire civilization, have you gone too far? The scientists in Fat Man, Little Boy and Gojira had to face this question. Once a weapon looses it's precision, innocent people tend to get caught in the crossfire. When you destroy an entire city in a fraction of a second, you're not killing an enemy arming, yo're killing innocent people, mothers and fathers who had no part in the war. Perhaps you come up with some kind of excuse. "They started it first. They would have fought us to the end anyway." Does this little girl look like she wants to take up arms and end your life? No? Then what gives you the right to take hers? 

 I don't like the use of weapons of mass destruction... and I don't think that any one man should ever have the power to wield them. And that's one of the reasons I think that no WMDs have been used since the first two were dropped. People realize that the cost is too great to use a weapon like that. A weapon that kills millions of people is not the answer to your problem with a single group. I'm sure it's easy to use a massive bomb on a group of people if they're not -your- people, after all.

I'm very torn on what to think of WMDs. On one hand I agree that in certain situations they are necessary, but at the same time I can't agree with the use of a weapon that kills everything, involved in the conflict or not. Plus it not only kills the people, but the land as well. Salt the ground? More like turn it into a nuclear fallout.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The cause of the drought in California

California has been starved from rain for over three long years, most places getting only twenty percent of normal rainfall. Of course, California isn't usually the most wet of states,ad most of it's water comes from large winter storms that fill it's reservoirs. But how can a state go three years without any rain. Any type of whether system that can do that must be pretty resilient, right?

That's exactly what it is. Coined "The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge", this high pressure system is four miles high and two thousand miles long. The high pressure area pushes storms away from California, up into Alaska and Canada, and back down into Wyoming and the Dakotas.Due to rising temperatures, this pressure system has been able to become as large as it is and stay there for as long as it has. Hopefully it will break soon and bring some much needed rain to California, but if not, they can look forward to another dry year after their winter months pass.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2001: A Space Odyssey

I have so much to say about this movie and no idea where to begin. A good place to start is probably the rating I'd give it.

Yep, ten out of ten. If the rating scale was based on how many times a movie made my brain shut down from having no idea what was going on. If I had to rate it on how much I enjoyed this movie, I'd give it a 2 out of ten. And that is due to something I like to call "The Sienfeld Effect." 
So, The Sienfeld Effect is as follows: I once tried to watch the show and found it extremely boring and not funny in the slightest. Why? Because everyone else had taken Sienfeld's jokes and used them over and over again in more interesting situations, leaving the stand up comedian feeling rather boring and dull.

So for when it was released, the slow cuts letting people drink in every rich, well shot detail of space was amazing!
 Kubrik was like "Space!" and everyone else was like:

But to us the movie's agonizing attention to detail in a rather dull setting is just... boring. I can see that it set some standards back in 1968 (DATS AN OLD MOVIE)
but when we have movies like star wars and alien, with these rich, well developed universes that provoke so much thought and side stories, 2001 just made me question who slipped Acid into my soda at dinner.

Physics wise: I had a few questions really. So we mentioned that yeah, it's great that the ship is spinning to give artificial gravity. But when I thought about it, I noticed something: The ship isn't spinning whenever we look at it. Or at least, we can't tell that it is. One could argue that only the center of the ship is spinning, and that the outer ball shape is just a shell around the inner rotating core. But in the pod bay (whatever you want to call the area with the space ping pong balls) there was clearly gravity in that room, but it wasn't spinning! Also, the glass falling from the table when he was an old man? Great physics, glass broke. All is well in the world.

From a cinema view (and I'm no cinematographer), the movie's pacing is painful. I get that he was trying to give every single movement in space great magnitude, but when you're character is just trying to press a button in his space ball, it's unnecessary that he spends 5 minutes leading up to him pressing the button. JUST PRESS THE BUTTON. If we cut down on the amount of cuts and time just wasted with all these unnecessarily long and awkward scenes, we could get this movie down to under an hour and a half, I bet. 

Also the characters: Maybe they're not a big part of the movie, but we spent an awful lot of time getting to know the doctor that we would never see again after he found the obelisk on the moon. Lets look at all this information they fed us about him: He has a wife and a daughter, it's his daughter's birthday, his daughter wants a bush baby for her birthday, she also wants a telephone, the name of her baby sitter, the fact that his wife isn't home, AND HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A WOMAN TO WALK AROUND A CIRCULAR ROOM?! TAKE STEPS LARGER THAN TWO INCHES PLEASE!

I'm just going to end with this:
you probably made mistakes when the most emotionally developed character in your movie
is a robot that's not supposed to feel emotion.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Friction, Drag, and Sound

The unsung heroes of the average world


Let's be honest, most people don't really think about friction till it lets them down, and they end up sprawled on the ground in a heap. One of my oldest memories as a child is watching recorded reruns of the magic school bus, and I still remember the episode where they tried to play baseball with no friction. Everyone sliding around and bumping into each other, unable to turn or control themselves without grabbing something and pushing off of it (though if there really was no friction at all, not even that would be possible.)
So picking up the super hero physics book, I grabbed the chapter on the flash.
So the book addresses that yes, the flash could jump over a building going at the speeds that he runs at. But would it be possible to run up the side? Well it all depends on friction. Every time someone takes a step, it causes a massive catastrophic event on a molecular scale. The surfaces of atoms collide, breaking and creating bonds to create what we know as friction. So can the flash run up the side of a building? Technically, yes, though it's more like bouncing. Though I predict something like this as a result. If he runs at a angle like that, gravity is going to pull down his upper half and he's going to go back flipping down the side of the building. Also, that radical change in direction from going vertical and then to horizontal. I think all super heroes are just indestructible because nobody should be able to do this. According to my roommate, Flash has "The Speed Force" which would allow him to ignore physics. But that doesn't make everything around him immune to physics! I think the glass would shatter from the impact of a person moving that fast.
This, on the other hand, is totally possible. He's moving so fast that the water can't move out of the way fast enough to allow him to sink. It's like water skis, move fast enough and you glide along the water. Same principle. In a way, the flash is bullet proof, but only when moving in the opposite direction. A bullet can't hit you if you outrun it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Saving the world! One crazy plan at a time.

Time being the key word there. It's the one variable that shows up in almost every set of equations in physics. Why, you ask? BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT! If we have the time to see the gigantic asteroid hurtling at earth that wants to just annihilate humanity as we know it, why rush? Let's take our time and let physics do all the work.

I present to you: THE SPACE TRACTOR!

So as an easy example, lets look at running and walking. You run the same distance as you walk, but why does it make you so much more tired to run? Because time! The more time you take, the less energy is required. Falling from a bridge to the ground would kill you, right? But because of the water, it lowers your impulse. 

So what does that have to do with saving the world? Well, the space tractor is a plan to launch up a probe to the asteroid before it hits us and position it so that it's gravitational force slowly, over the span of a lot of time, pulls the asteroid out of the path of earth and into deep space. We don't need a great amount of force because we're not doing it over a small amount of time. But of course, this plan only works if we have some warning beforehand. I think the best part about this is that it's been tested already, since Nasa has sent several probes into deep space to slowly circle the massive space rock, Vesta. 

So this plan isn't fast or flashy, we don't need Bruce Willis to save us, all wee need is a little tiny probe and some time.