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.