Monday, November 23, 2015

Science of Interstellar: Higher Dimensions

     We see our world as 3 dimensional, we can see right, left, forward, backward, up and down. However we exist in a 4 dimensional world, the fourth being time, where we not only move through a 3D space but also through time as it passes to us. However we can only move forward in time due to relativity. You can visualize space-time as a two dimetinonal fabric, with gravity warping that fabric. Our universe can be thought of as a three dimensional "brane" being embedded in a "bulk" with 4 dimensions.
     John Schwarz and Michael Green set out in 1984 to discover the laws of quantum gravity and made a breakthrough. This breakthrough only worked if the "bulk" had 9 space dimensions and 1 time dimension, six more than space dimensions than our "brane." In this "superstring theory" the extra dimensions have large influences on our "brane," that can be measured if we had sufficient technology. These influences could make it possible to reconcile the laws of quantum physics with Einstein's laws of relativity.
     In Interstellar the bulk's six extra dimensions are made into one extra dimension for practice purposes. The bulk in interstellar shares 3 space dimensions and 1 time dimension with our brane. It also has a fifth space dimension. Kipp Thorne refers to this as "out back," and extends perpendicular to our universe.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Morals Of Nuclear Weaponry

     In the movies "Fat Man and Little Boy" and "Gojira" the topic of morals regarding the first two atomic bombs dropped on Japan is looked at in two perspectives. On the side of "Fat Man and Little Boy" it portrays it as a neccisary evil that would end further bloodshed in the pacific, even if many of the scientists disagreed with the use of the weapon on Japan. In "Gojira" the so-called oxygen destroyer is a weapon of mass destruction that no doubtedly represents the Atomic Bombs. In the Film they use the Oxygen Destroyer to defeat Godzilla despite the residual destruction of the life in the harbor. This is done to prevent anymore destruction at the hands of Godzilla even though the scientist that created it didn't want to use it untill a peaceful use could be found. Notice any similarities? The scientists of the Manhatten Project knew it would be destructive, but did it to prevent further war, and the scientist used his Oxygen Destroyer, that he wanted to make into a peaceful device, to stop Godzilla. Certainly the movies displayed similar and yet differing views, one in favor of the bombs and one criticizing their use. 

     If I were a scientist and I knew that my research was applied to weapons I wouldn't be against it, this of course sounds cruel, however, the advancement of weapons can lead to less civilian collateral and safer handling than weapons in the past. Sure some applications could be producing more powerful weapons, but in producing more powerful weapons the less likely they are to be used. The principle of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) has kept our nuclear weapons from being fired due solely to the fact that other powerful nations have comparable weapons and our using of nukes could lead to them being used against us. Researching science with weapon applications is certainly not without danger or risk of it being deployed en masse, yet you would have to hope that it leads to a peaceful resolution or made current weapons safer.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Raging Global Warming Debate

     Say what you will about the physics of the movie Day After Tommorow, but it has a very driving point, Global Climate shift is important. No matter what side of the argument of global warming you stand on, it's certainly a hot topic these days. I would like to look at the aspect of coastal flooding, certainly an idea that holds importance here in Charleston. 
     The idea is simple, as polar ice on Greenland and Antarctica melt and drain into the ocean it adds to the total amount of water on the worlds oceans. While this may not seem like a large amount over a short period of time compared to the sum of the oceans volume, however it adds up to a few inches of water over the the course of a longer period of time. While only a couple inches may seem negligible, these few inches, 3.5 globally, can prove to be devistaing to low-lying coastal communities. 
     As the above chart emphasizes, some areas can see tremendous rises in sea level. This rise in sea level can be attributed polar melting of land ice due to global warming, which in turn is due to many factors such as introduction of CO2 to the atmosphere via the burning of fossil fuels (approx. 337 billion metric tons since 1751) as well as many natural factors that can also contribute to the warming trend. This warming trend is accountable for the melting of permanate ice caps in Greenland and Antartica, as well as the recession of sea ice in recent history. 
     While efforts have been made to lessen further impact of fossil fuels such as renewable resources, it is not probable to completely stop the emission of CO2 with current dependence on oil, as such the emission trend will continue along with predicted warming trends as more CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere. While greenhouse gasses are not the only cause for the warming trend, they are a major factor.  

     This graph shows projected sea level rise based on predicted warming patterns. Statistics like these certainly should be taken with consideration for the timeframe, however, drastic sea level rise could be the bane of costal communities like the one here in charleston if global warming trends continue in their predicted manner. There certainly is no "silver bullet" for stoping climate change, but moving towards renewable energy could be a valuable step in the right direction.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

2001: A Cultural Odyssey

     2001: A Space Odyssey is a movie that has stood as a cultural expeiance for 40 years. It's wonderful cinematography and groundbreaking effects made it somthing that everyone should expeiance at least once, for better or worse, but it's not just this that makes it an incredible movie. Despite being twice as old as myself it has some very good physics. This coupled with its other amazing aspects made it a movie that I certainly enjoyed.

     Admittedly the movie does have some very hard to comprehend plot devices, such as screeching music, psychedelic landscapes and giant space babies. However, the artistic value of these is part of what makes the movie what it is. It's certainly not a movie for everyone, but the precedent it set for the sci-if genre is clear. After watching the movie you can see the myriad of pop culture references that are made about the movie and where many cultural works draw their inspiration. 

     2001 is unique in the sci-fi realm in that it's physics are actually quite good. For example, the space station, and their spaceship, create artificial gravity by rotating. This may sound silly at first glance, but the rotation creates a centripetal force that allows the astronauts to walk along the outer shell of the craft with ease. This force grows stronger as you move towards the interior of the rotation, hence why they float as the move through the central tube and stand and walk on the floor that lines the wall of the craft. Certainly this is an example how the movie gets its physics right.
      While 2001 does get a lot right in regard to physics, it certainly does get some things wrong. First off they walk around rather normally while they are on the moon while they are observing the not so moral monolith. The far lower gravity of the moon would allow them to walk around, however they would have had to bounce around like the Apollo Astronaughts. Secondly, pod bay would not have the same artificial gravity due to its position on the ship, upset they walked around normally despite this. While this could be the work of the mighty grip shoes, it's hard to tell as a space suit is also hanging in the background as though it is being acted on my gravity. 

     Overall I would give 2001: A Space Odyssey a 9/10. I loved the movie, but I think we can all agree the shear amount of off color vistas was painful to watch.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Super Research, of the hero variety.

     I chose to use the book The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios. I focused on chapter 5, "Flash Facts-Friction, Drag, and Sound," in this chapter the author explains the physics of The Flash and how plausible his super speed truly is. To begin he starts by discussing friction, specifically Flash running up the side of the building. He describes that while the flash would not have the friction required to run up a building, he could easily leap up the building between steps so long as he maintains the minimum speed required to do so. This, of course, ignores what the author refers to as Flash's "Mirracle Exception" which entails that his body could withstand the forces of running as such high speeds.
     Secondly the author tackles the issue of the flash running on water and using shockwaves to fight enemies. Here he explains that when you encounter a liquid it must move out of the way and the denser the liquid the harder it is for this to be accomplished quickly. The air not very dense compared to water, so the speed at which an object is going for the air to form a pleasure wave is very high. Air molecules move around at the speed of sound (750mph or 1,100ft/sec), when you exceed this the air molecules are pushed in front of you and form a shock front. Thus if the flash is moving faster than the speed of sound he creates a preasure wave in front of him that could theoretically be used to hit a villain. This same principle allows the flash to run across water, when his foot hits the water at incredible speed the water can't move out of the way fast enough and creates a shock front that pushes against his foot. At such speeds the water would behave like a solid. 
    Next the author explores the inability for The Flash to communicate with others while running and vice versa. Since The Flash is moving as such high speeds, the Doppler effect would cause any sound waves that reached him to become compressed as he moved throws them. Additionally, since he is moving beyond the speed of sound he would be moving faster than any sound waves and thus could not hear anything spoke to him from behind or the sides while running. Referring back to sounds he would hear from the front, they would become heavily distorted since the waves become heavily compressed has he moves closer to the point of origin. All this adds up to say that the flash would have to rely on visual communication while running because sound would either be slower than he was or would be compressed and register in a very high pitch. 
      Finally, the Author briefly describes the ability of the flash to grab bullets out of the air. Since the flash is able to move at the same speed as the bullet it would be moving along with him and just like picking up and object in a moving vehicle it would be as simple as grabbing it out of the air.
     The author ends by describing how the flash would have to endure the extreme forces of accelerating to such speeds and decelerating back down over and over again. Which, yes, would kill a non-superhuman.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Armageddon, Armageddoff.

T     The movie Armageddon focuses around a team of rough drillers being roped into saving the planet from an asteroid the size of Texas by an obviously desperate NASA. In the movie NASA recruits a group of very wacky drillers to fly to an asteroid and drill deep around to slide a nuke inside and spit it in half with the resulting explosion. Said explosion would then split the asteroid so that both halves would conveniently miss earth on either side. Aside from the obvious flaws and the even more obvious flaws, they manage to save the earth after Murphy's Law has its way with the crew. True to 90’s fashion the movie is full of big explosions, love and mathematical impossibilities.

     Now however, let's look at an actual plan that the good men and women at real life NASA have come up with to save our planet with actual science rather than Bruce Willis. One proposed idea would be an Asteroid Gravtity Tractor. This method would put a large, heavy space craft matitaining orbit over an asteroid, the ship and the asteroid both gravitationally attract each other, thus if the ship resist the force towards the asteroid the net effect would cause the asteroid to accelerate in the direction of the spacecraft. Such a craft would use a thruster, such as an ion thruster, to counter the gravitational force of the asteroid.

    This method has advantages and disadvantages, it would have to be deployed years in advance in order for the slight change in the asteroids path to achieve the required amount of deflection. This process is certainly slow, but it is steady and reliable. Furthermore this method can work on any asteroid regardless of the asteroids composition, rotational speed, or surface terrain as it does not need to come in contact with the asteroid. A Gravity Tractor may not be as flashy as Bruce Willis, however it could work and probably do it in less time than it took Bruce to push the detonator.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

I Want to Erase my Memory of Eraser

     The movie Eraser is about Arnold Schwarzenegger protecting his witness, saving America and looking as badass as the 90's possibly could make him. The icing on the cake is the corrupt cops and insane railguns that are prevalent throughout the movie. As far as the physics go, I sincerely wished they were as accurate as Arnold is manly.
     Regarding the disregard for physics, we can look at the railguns of the movie and their blatant lack of recoil(And mathematical correctness) when fired. The guns supposedly fire aluminum rounds as the speed of light, unfortunately for them Arnold is manly enough to to move faster than light itself. However to analyze the physics of how the movie should have gone we won't be looking at Arnold, but rather a scene involving a unknown shooter and Daryl, the clingy ex-boyfriend who after the fact is clinging to the wall.
     In the scene the shooter fires, hitting Daryl in the chest and sending him flying across the room. let's assume the bullet lodges inside Daryl and transfers all its momentum to him. The math, shown below, shows that not only would Daryl been a smear on the now destroyed wall, but the shooter would have also be reduced to very shady chunks.

     Both the shooter and Daryl would have been sent flying, in what I can assume is a comical fashion, at incredible speeds. The fact of the matter is that they would both be certainly dead and in multiple pieces. I'm sure however that Arnold would have has no trouble handling the actual recoil with his rippling biceps and a snappy one liner...