Sunday, November 22, 2015

Whole Worms

In short, simple terms a wormhole is a shortcut from one part of the universe to another. You go in one side and come out the other.
If only they were that simple. This post would've been a lot easier.
A wormhole is a point in spacetime where gravity acts as a sort of tunnel, connecting two points in spacetime, so that the trip from point to point through the wormhole is much quicker than without it. To put it into more understandable terms, I like to use John Wheeler's (mentor to Kip Thorne, author of The Science of Interstellar) example of an ant eating though an apple. In this example, the ant's universe is the 2D surface of the apple, and the wormhole is a hole that leads from one side of the surface to the other. The ant could walk around the entire surface, or just straight through the hole. This is the basic idea behind a wormhole: the shortcut through the universe. The apple's insides is not like the rest of the ant's universe, it is in 3D, a dimension above what the ant perceives. For wormholes in our 3D universe, wormholes are 4D, which is exactly why we have to explain them in terms of 2D and 3D.

The first person to answer Einstein's equations that described a wormhole (but Einstein didn't say it was that) was Ludwig Flamm, who described wormholes as spherical shapes that contained no gravitating matter. Much later, John Wheeler and Robert Fuller found that wormholes are created, contracted, and then destroyed. Because of two singularities reaching each other through space and time, a wormhole is created, it expands, shrinks, and then cuts off. They said that this process happens so quickly that not even light has time to make it through before the cut off, and thus nothing can traverse a wormhole.

The only way for travel through a wormhole to be possible is if the wormhole did not cut itself off so quickly, but then there is the issue of bending light rays outward. While something like a sun or black hole can bend rays inward, to bend rays outward would require negative energy. Material with negative energy is called "exotic material" and has actually been created, granted in small amounts, in laboratories (says Thorne).

In short: wormholes are like holes in apples except scaled into a dimension we cannot perceive, and if one were to be traversable we would need a lot of "exotic material" and good fortune.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Star Tech

Believe it or not, space is mostly just empty space. It's a vast nothingness with nothing in it, which makes for exciting television I'm sure. And not only is it as empty as space can be, but it also very very large. So, how does a film make space exciting and colorful? Well, warp drive of course.
The use of warp drive is a way for Star Trek to show the emptiness of space without showing the emptiness of space. It shows the ship traveling incredible distances in mere seconds, so that they can cut to the action very quickly. It also conveniently allows the characters to appear exactly where they need to be nearly instantly. Need to travel across the galaxy to save a planet real quick? No big deal, warp drive. In the 2009 Star Trek movie, warp drive is used to quickly arrive at Vulcan to provide aid before it is too late.
Warp drive is said to work by producing a ridiculous amount of energy in a fusion reaction of matter and antimatter in a "warp coil" brought about by "dilithium crystals", a rare chemical element. This power generates "warp fields", also known by their catchier and much more understandable nickname "subspace displacement fields". These fields distort the space around the ship, effectively surrounding the ship with a "subspace bubble", which is indeed the actual term they use. This magic space distortion bubble allows the ship to travel at speeds faster than light. However, traveling faster than light isn't exactly as simple as magic space bubbles, because in the real world we have Einstein's theory of relativity. Essentially, the faster something goes, the more mass something gains, and the more mass it gains the more energy it needs to be propelled... eventually we would need infinite energy to go faster than light, so how can something travel faster than light?

Another piece of fictional technology created almost entirely for plot reasons is the famous transporter. It's basically a teleporter that allows the characters to skip the whole landing process. It is another example of fictional technology created to skip over boring or repetitive scenes, or to get characters to or out of a place very quickly. In the 2009 Star Trek movie the transporter is used to save Kirk and Sulu as they are falling towards their certain demise. At the very last second, they are teleported onto the ship alive. Spock also uses this technology to quickly teleport to Vulcan, and to teleport himself and others to safety. It "works" by dematerializing, transmitting, and reassembling the teleported, or "beaming" them. While tests have apparently been successful in teleporting quantum information between photons, transporting atoms, and keeping them in the right place, would be incredibly difficult. Also, while people in Star Trek can be teleported from planet to planet with ease, in real life theoretically sending particles in a quantum state would travel by something like radio wave, and thus wouldn't exactly make it that far.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Is Bombing Thousands of People Morally Right or Wrong??

At a first glance I feel like most people, certainly myself, would immediately be repulsed at the idea of killing a ridiculous amount of people with a bomb. However, context and circumstance can change everything, so it's only fair to give a more in-depth look at the situation.

In "Fat Man and Little Boy", the scientists are tasked with making an incredibly powerful bomb to aid the US in a war. In short, simple terms: they need to make a powerful weapon to stop a force that threatens them. Initially I would say I'm against the creation and use of such a weapon, but then I considered the scenario in "Gojira".
In "Gojira", a rampaging monster must be stopped in order to save as many people as possible. In short, simple terms: they need to make a powerful weapon to stop a force that threatens them.

The scenarios of "Fat Man and Little Boy" and "Gojira" are surprisingly similar when thought of like this, but there is, of course, one striking difference between to two: In one a literal monster is slain, in the other human beings are killed.

One can argue that both are in self defense: a weapon to stop a threat. However, that argument essentially equates human beings to the monster that is Godzilla. Godzilla is undeniably at fault for the destruction it causes, but could every corpse created by the bomb be held accountable for their country's actions? Furthermore, does dropping a bomb on thousands of people not make us the monster?

That being said, if I were a scientist offered to do research with weapon applications, I would hesitate to either accept or decline. It is hard to say whether or not I would be okay with my research leading to the deaths of a human, let alone thousands. Perhaps if my country were in undeniable danger I would, but I would not be proud of it. Eventually I would have to consider what was at stake. It is really selfish to want to protect yourself and your loved ones? But what right do I have to take other lives, aren't they just trying to do the same? I would not try to distance myself as the creator from the "droppers" of the bomb. I was a cog in the process, and at least some fault would fall to me.

Maybe if it were the only option to save my country and me, and maybe if I had nowhere else to bring my science I would do it. That isn't to say, however, that I would have a peaceful sleep for the rest of my nights.

Perhaps sometimes we humans have to do things we may not think is right just for the sake of survival. Perhaps it is wrong for us to consider our survival more important than others', but perhaps we shouldn't ignore that most basic human instincts.

It's easy to say "I'm above killing others" and move on, but, unfortunately, sometimes the situation is a bit more complex.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Whether we like it or not, global warming is kind of a thing and it seems to be getting real serious real quick. One of the biggest problems is ice on land melting and going into the oceans, thus raising not only the sea levels, but also all sorts of issues, like flooding.

The heat is being caused by the ridiculous amount of carbon dioxide that we're producing. Over the past thousands of years carbon dioxide levels have NEVER been so high, and the heat-trapping nature of it is really screwing our planet over.
A graph by NASA illustrating the terribly high level of carbon dioxide we suddenly have now a'days.

Thanks to the burning of fossil fuels for our electricity and transportation, deforestation, and many other industry-related processes our carbon dioxide production is way higher than the amount of absorption the earth can keep up with. 
It's only getting worse, as well. In the last few years the increase of carbon dioxide production isn't exactly coming to a halt.

As we continue to outpace the Earth's absorption rate of carbon dioxide, we continue to raise temperatures a melt a bunch of ice that really doesn't need to be melted. 

Fortunately, many environmentalists are working on solutions to cut down on the use of fossil fuels to slow down our production of carbon dioxide, but a lot of damage has already been done.