Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Answers!

Last Tuesday I asked for questions from the readers. I only ended up getting 3 serious ones, that's a good amount to do this thread, but I'm not sure how its going to work out in the long run. I am still experimenting with this, but I still think a community interaction is a good idea. So I am going to do a poll this time, asking what celestial topic I should cover, and if you have suggestions for alternatives, make them in the comments here. But if you do have any questions, I will try to answer them in the comments. I think I have done a pretty good job so far, and even if I don't know, I can probably track a source down for you.

The Q&A:
From Mike Yang: Here's a weird one for you: I've heard a really obscure conspiracy theory that Maxwell's equations were altered/censored soon after their original publishing by converting them to another form, losing crucial details in the process. While I won't bother to ask whether there's any truth to this, I'm curious: where and how did these rumors start? Is concealing facets of a mathematical theory by altering its form even theoretically possible, or would it be impossible for an engineer or mathematician not to notice?

Answer:  I hadn't honestly ever heard of this before, it is certainly a weird one though. My bet is that it is the work of conspiracy theorists who are a bit off mark. From my astute reading of Wikipedia, it sounds like there was a bit of controversy when Oliver Heaviside worked to create the equations as they are used today. This is used to propel pseudo scientific theories. I think it would be possible to try to hide things, but I don't think it would stand up to any long term scrutiny. Maxwell's equations have been around for awhile now and widely used, any such conspiracy wouldn't hold up over this course of study.

From Anonymous (I'm pretty sure this is my friend Nathan): What do you think the future of space travel will be? New energy sources, hibernation stasis, time distortion, other dimensional wormholes, teleporation... what? What other unique ideas are scientists and engineers dreaming up?

Answer: The science for space travel is going to be moving in all sorts of directions, all equally helping our eventual long term space flights. For energy sources we are going to see solar energy better refined with new materials that allow less energy to be wasted, nuclear power is going to become safer, and there maybe other energy sources we just don't know about yet. Hibernation stasis is an interesting one, there was a recent study on bear hibernation (PDF), and what it could mean for human health. Bears happen to be large mammals and there for much more related humans on the hibernation study, rather then lowering out body temperature and laying flat out in a cryotube, humans may require constant temperature (probably to keep mental functioning) and curl up in a crew quarters, maybe waking up to move every once in awhile. Teleportation is one of those weird things that might be possible, but would require massive amounts of energy to do, and probably not worthwhile. The other stuff seems purely science fictional right now. As far as what unique ideas scientists and engineers might dream up, who knows, that's why they would be unique ideas, but I bet they are amazing. Things I wouldn't be to surprised to see are space elevators, orbital asteroid mines, and space colonies.

Lastly, from Chuck: Is it true that if a small (say tennis ball size) object was accelerated to the sped of light it's mass would increase to the extent that it's gravitational pull would suck in planets, solar systems etc?

Answer: No, the proposed tennis ball would disintegrate before making it that fast. And even if it didn't disintegrate, I don't think that it would become gravitationally massive. The photons of light have a mass to them and they don't gobble up the Universe. The fact is that an objects mass won't change unless you add matter to it. You could collapse a tennis ball at the speed of light and create a mini black hole, but it would still weight as much as a tennis ball. I'm not entirely sure, but if you threw something less massive at it, it would probably absorb it and become more massive. It's kind of speculative since it hasn't been done. Anyways, such an object would probably evaporate into subatomic particles/Hawking radiation fairly quickly. That's why there is no real danger to the idea of creating mini black holes or giant super colliders. No, what would suck up the solar system and planets would be a collapsed star, a regular black hole, they may be 20 times more massive then our Sun squashed into an Earth-sized ball. But, they aren't really as threatening as made out to be, they aren't running rogue across the galaxy, most of the violent ones we see were binary stars.


32 comments:

Siphil said...

Nice article. I chose the sun because of all the drama and misinformation about solar cycles, and 2012.

Aaron M. Gipson said...

Hey man, it's really cool that you answer these guys' questions so thoroughly. The first one about the equations being altered is something I have never heard about.

kgp318 said...

Wow, a lot of good information :) I really like anonymous' question...it's interesting to think of all the possibilities that science is thinking up! p.s. I voted for the moon because I'd like to learn more about it.

rndmg123 said...

was gonna ask about space travel, but its already there. you are doing a great job btw

Christophe said...

I had actually been a bit confused about the last subject, so I'm glad you got that question. It cleared things up for me, with regards to objects approaching the speed of light.

Charles said...

thanks, ill be reading this again when its earlier in the day haha

Blog_Master_Flex said...

The idea of space elevators intrigues me. I want to see tubes like in Futurama that will suck us to a new planet lol.

Thanks for being thorough but simplistic in your answers so us people who ain't gots there learnings good can understand.

Robert Fünf said...

I voted for dark matter as it's always intrigued me, but honestly, I'm happy with anything.

JoeyPo said...

Dude Darkmatter all the way

Salman A said...

Glad to see some very interesting questions being answered. Thank you for posting this, I will read it thoroughly and digest the information!

ankmanpro said...

I'd love to see some teleportation...

synoptixs said...

wow reading your answers to these questions shows that you really know your stuff! will remember to come here if I have a question regarding these subjects

mac-and-me said...

dark matter!

baxxman said...

Cannot imagine any of that, but - surprise me
http://baxxmans.blogspot.com/

Kim Anders said...

dark matter :)

tetcrh said...

Really informative man. The notion of suppression of mathematical knowledge is an interesting one.

The example of Maxwell's equations doesn't hold up so well, as classical electrodynamics holds up fairly well to scientific scrutiny.

If they were altered, I'm thinking this would not be the case!!

rinns said...

I enjoyed that read :D
I also chose black holes because damn I want to know some more about that! n__n

Chuck said...

Thanks for reply :)

Chuck said...

Cosmic dust. Where does it come from and what does it consist of?

PekkaK said...

What's your opinion on fusion power? When is it coming?

Kindros said...

Thanks for answering these questions. Maybe next time I'll have a good one.

KB said...

I love how well done your answers are! I take IB Physics HL and some of this is still a bit beyond me! One question I have:

What's your personal stance on Pluto and dwarf planets? Should Pluto be a planet or not?

I would say no, since there are many other dwarf planets.

Alan said...

So with your last question, there is no way the LHC will create black holes?

Astronomy Pirate said...

Some of you have some great ideas I wouldn't have thought of, and I do promise to get to all the subjects eventually. I'm not planning on going anywhere for awhile. Keep up the voting and great suggestions.

Astronomy Pirate said...

@Alan, I'm not really entirely sure. It would require a lot of energy. But the LHC is pretty powerful. It might be able to great black holes on a subatomic level that exist for tiny fractions of time. Nothing that would be a threat to the Earth.

husar said...

I' m glad nice post. Good blog, I wait for next post.

+ followed:)

THUNDERCAT832 said...

I'm so voting on black holes! (no pun intended) I've always wanted to learn more about them like what's on the other side! And is travel within them possible just like in the movies!!!

mmmpieohyeah said...

dude this is a nice idea, might try this out in the future...

T3CH said...

The tennis ball theory was awesome though ^-^

Matt said...

Good explanation with the tennis ball at the speed of light. I want to know, what happens if you're driving your car at c, and you turn your headlights on?

The Governor said...

dark matter? love that stuff

russkofkof441 said...

good tennisball theory there keep up the good work

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