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Up next… Journey to the center of the Earth

Who’s up for it? C’mon,  I know you want to go. You’re just scared of the heat and the wierd plants and animals, aren’t you? Well you don’t need to worry about the heat anymore. And about the weird flora and fauna,  you can go check out for yourselves, in a few years, hopefully.

See, the thing is, scientists have discovered or rather simulated a material that has a melting point higher than the temperature of the outer core of the earth. And you wouldn’t want to go any further anyways. And I say simulated, because scientists have simulated this material and performed tests on it. Their next task is to actually manufacture this hot stuff and perform actual experiments on it.

This supposed material will be composed of Hefnium, Carbon and Nitrogen. It will have a melting point of roughly 4400K. To give you a comparison, the earth’s outer core is about 4300K. And this is about 2/3 of the sun’s surface temperature. Hey, what do you know, you can even make it pretty close to the sun.

The uses of such a material could be manifold. But it remains to be seen if it can be manufactured for actual use. So before you start digging to the center of the earth, hold your horses and read more about the discovery over at Gizmodo.

-Akshar Rawal

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What if…You drop a bucket full of water on the sun

Talking about things that hit the sun, what if you were to drop a bucket full of water on the sun? No, not a bucket that you use at home. What if you were to drop the amount of water equivalent to the volume of the sun? That would amount to 0.71 times the mass of the sun (because the sun is 1.4 times more dense than water, only 1.4 times).

So what if you drop that much water on the sun? Well, once dropped, the water will heat up significantly by the time it reaches the surface of the sun. Now you’d be thinking what about evaporation and all? Well, the sun does not have an atmosphere. And it has strong gravitational pull. Out there it’s all vacuum. So the body with the most gravity attracts everything around it. So the water will reach the surface, pretty quickly.

But by the time it does, it would have been heated up to a plasma state. Our sun is primarily composed of Hydrogen and Helium. But scientists have discovered stars out in the universe that are composed of higher elements. Our sun will also eventually fuse into higher elements. So when water, which is essentially composition of two parts of Hydrogen and one part Oxygen.

So these elements in plasma state will fuse into its current composition, turning our sun into a more brighter and hotter sun. It would glow about 7 times brighter and would be equally more hot. So, don’t do it.

You can read a more detailed explanation about the events that take place over at Gizmodo.

-Akshar Rawal

What if…A comet hit the sun?

Comets keep hitting the earth, like all the time. Remember 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs, and the one that hit 3.3 million years ago and caused another set of extinctions and a cooling trend (ice age?) and…and Armageddon, and..and Deep Impact…Oh wait! That’s not what re were talking about. So in summary, a lot of comets have hit the earth over it’s life.

But what about the sun? What if a comet hit the sun? It’s nothing new, a lot of comets graze the sun. The smaller ones disintegrate before they make any decent impact from the radiation and heat. But, if the comets are large enough, they can easily hit the sun. The bigger ones before were on a course that only made them graze the corona.

But to make the impact, the body will have to be more than 10^9 kgs. That’s not too much in galactic scales. For eg. the Earth weighs ~ 10^24 kgs and the moon is ~ 10^22 kgs. So yeah, not too big. In fact, a couple of comets that have grazed the sun recently have been bigger than this. Isn’t that terrifying.

But what does this mean for us earthlings? Bursts of UV and x-rays. Sun storms send the same things, which cause the awesome aurora borealis, or more generally “Aurora”. Isn’t that going to be awesome. Now I’m not sure if there is a limit to how much the Earth’s magnetic field can block off. But otherwise, I’d be looking forward to it.

Original post: Gizmodo

-Akshar Rawal

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Re-writing the future of electronics with Physics

In the earliest days, man knew physical compounds as being the smallest category of size, until the discovery of molecules. The same went for molecules, until the discovery of cells. Then from cells to atoms, then to sub-atomic particles. And sub-atomic particles are not limited to protons, neutrons and electrons. There’s baryons, fermions, mesons, leptons, photons, gluons and many more. Wikipedia has a pretty interesting article about the sub-atomic particles.

More recently, scientists have been studying the birth of the universe. The universe is assumed to be composed of dark matter and dark energy, something that scientists haven’t quite been able to figure out. And to determine the same, they have been trying to reproduce events from the big bang to study the creation of these. The LHC or Large Hadron Collider is used to accelerate particles to near-light speed before they are collided to observe these effects. The Higgs-Boson particles were first of these mysterious particles observed during these simulations. And they have led to tremendous advancements in the world of Physics.

One such study, not with the LHC, has lead to the discovery of what are known as Weyl Fermions. They were hypothesized but never observed, until recently. These particles are massless (like photons and gluons) but highly stable. Counter-intuitely, they cannot exist by themselves. Instead they exist as quasi-particles. They are not particles, rather they are a disturbance in a medium, like some electronic activity, that acts like a particle in free space.

The property of these quasi-particles that is important to the world of electronics is the fact that:

  1. They only interact with other Weyl Fermions.
  2. They retain their speed and course while they interact.

What this entails is that they can be used to carry a charge over long distances without generating heat or getting scattered. Electrons exhibit both properties, they generate heat and repel each other, forcing scattering if allowed. It waits to be seen what more can they offer.

IFLScience has a detailed report on the discovery. You can check it out here.

-Akshar Rawal

Hyperloop: Another one of Elon Musk’s ambitions

As if Tesla and SpaceX isn’t enough, Elon Musk is also working on creating a hyper loop, a super fast public transport alternative, devices to transmit people at speeds more than that of typical passenger aircrafts. It is being designed to run between LA and San Francisco for now, but might end up being used between the major destinations.

More importantly, the hyper loop concept is not all new. The concept basically is removing the air-drag from the transport vehicle which effectively removes any force that acts against the direction of travel, allowing for extremely fast travels. This requires the hyper loop tube to be vacuum/devoid of air, to remove its drag. Creating such a tube is the primary hurdle in this technology. Mr. Musk’s concept doesn’t remove the air entirely, but reduces it to a bare minimum. Hence the air drag is only ever so small. This allows for the vehicle to travel at much faster speeds than even commercial aircrafts. You should remember that aircrafts use the air drag to provide the lift. They still have to counteract the drag with the engines. Check out this video @ minute physics that explains the physics of aircrafts.

The current model of the hyper loop is expected to be completely operational on the solar panels fitted to the tube itself. This would essentially make it a public mode of transport that is not reliant on fossil fuels. This is a significant advantage in terms of pushing the idea. Apart from the fact that it carries a $6bn price tag for just the California section, it is the near vacuum conditions that propose the primary hurdle in its deployment. And we definitely cannot set the price tag apart, especially because it is so damn high. There are certain aircrafts available that can travel at much higher speeds and do not carry such a huge price tag. So what should we make of this?

Well as it turns out, not all hope is lost. Earth has a heavy atmosphere, and creating a vacuum tube here would be a problem. But what about other planets? Maybe Mars? If we are to inhabit Mars, it is going to be a very sparse populace. And hyperloops such as the one Mr. Musk is working on may just be the ideal mode of transport, more so for the lack of fossil fuels there. You can check out this gizmodo posts that discusses this idea.

Share your thoughts on the concept of hyperloop and if you think that would be a good alternative to the current modes of transport.

-Akshar Rawal

Now a bit about Elon Musk’s SpaceX

I briefly mentioned SpaceX in an earlier blog Elon Musk, ladies and gentlemen! Get motivated. But it’s in the news now. But let’s start from the beginning. Let’s take a tour of SpaceX’s accomplishments.

2008 – SpaceX wins a $1.6B Commercial Resupply Services contract.

2009 – Falcon1 Flight 5 makes history, becoming the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to deliver a commercial satellite to earth orbit.

2010 – Dragon becomes the first privately developed spacecraft in history to re-enter from low-earth orbit.

Falcon9 meets all objectives set for the first flight. (Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed to reliably and safely transport satellites and dragon. Its the first rocket completely developed in                the 21st century).

2012 – Dragon becomes the first private spacecraft to visit the ISS.

Grasshopper completes first in a series of successful tests of SpaceX’s reusability technology. SpaceX is working on building reusable rocket modules that can land back on earth. More on this later.

2013 – Grasshopper’s highest leap to date – 325m, higher than the Chrysler building.

Falcon 9 reaches Geosynchronous Transfer orbit.

2014 – Falcon9 first stage successfully lands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Grasshopper leaps 1000m, lands safely.

These are only a few in the many laurels of SpaceX. Gotta say, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX does “dare to disrupt”. But coming back to the latest, SpaceX has done some extensive research into why they keep crash-landing rockets within their reusability testing. You can read about it here. You can also read all about their work on their website http://www.spacex.com/about.

-Akshar Rawal

What came first…the egg or the hen?

Only if I had a penny for every time I came across this question! And only if I had another for every time people couldn’t answer it!

Well turns out science has an answer for it. Checkout the the video over at AsapScience.

-Akshar Rawal

Latency of a thought

How long does it take to think a thought? Isn’t that straight forward now. I’m sure you have one right now in your head. But how long did it take for your brain to think that thought? A number of things can be classified as thoughts. But it is not possible to measure the latency for all of them. To measure the time, we need a start and and end point. Our end point would be where the thought start. But it might not be possible to see the start for the seed of all thoughts. Reactionary thoughts, however can be used as a baseline to estimate the latency of thinking a thought.

Yeah its recursive and complicated (coz aren’t all recursions? ). But head on over to Gizmodo to read on an interesting analysis on how long it really takes to think a thought.

-Akshar Rawal

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