Sunday, November 22, 2015

You Need a Wormhole to Escape This Movie...

Wormholes have been in question since they were first theorized; and having no direct proof of their existence just further complicates the discussion of wormholes, originally called Einstein-Rosen Bridges. Today, we not only explore the possibility of wormholes, but also their relevance to 2015 blockbuster Interstellar, a movie, in my opinion, you would need a wormhole to get away from.

Wormholes were first theorized in 1935 by the great Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen. They concluded that a hole in the space-time continuum could, theoretically, transport you through either space, or time. How it does this is simple, yet at the same time complicated. It is theorized that worm holes are created by bending the fabric of space-time over itself and then having a tunnel connect the two areas, thus creating a shorter distance to travel. The only problem with this description is that space-time is not 2 dimensional but is instead in the 3rd dimension, so in order to create a wormhole, one would need to use a 4th dimension in order to travel through. Humans are not capable, yet, of understanding or, at this point, proving that a 4th dimension exists. below is a graphic of how a 2 dimensional universe could create a wormhole.

Now for the viability of using a wormhole. Since we have no empirical data on usage of wormholes (because we haven't even proven they exist), we are not 100% sure on what the effects of traveling through a wormhole would be. It has been hypothesized that traveling through a wormhole could have many possibilities like: 1) taking you to a farther part of the universe, 2) taking you either forward or backwards in time, or the most likely scenario 3) the wormhole, being extremely unstable, collapses in on itself and traps you in another dimension. So while the possibility of traveling through space-time sound really amazing and inspiring, it may not be worth the risk. All being said, if humans someday in the future are able to harness gravitational energy and create a successful, stable wormhole, then the possibilities are endless as to space travel and theoretically time travel. So maybe Matthew McConaughey can star in a more realistic movie about space-time travel when that technology becomes available (cause lets face it, hes never gonna die).

Now that the physics portion of the post is over, I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that this is the first movie this entire semester where I am struggling to determine whether or not I like the movie, and honestly, that scares me...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Star Trek: Next Inconsistency: From Warp Drive to Stun Setting

"Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before"

     Now, everybody knows that I may be on of the biggest Trekkies attending the College of Charleston, but this does not mean I am not capable of finding certain inconsistencies with both the plot and physics of the newer Star Trek movies. Again, I promised Dr. Fragile I would restrain my plot concerns in this post, so instead, I will be explaining two technologies necessary for the plot of the movie: Warp Drive, and the Stun setting on the standard issue Phaser.

"Lieutenant Commander Data, set a course for Earth, Warp 8!"

     In literally any Trek production, the use of Warp Drive is used in some context. In this feature film, Warp Drive is used many times to travel across great distances over short periods of time. This is necessary if one wants to traverse the galaxy or be able to escape from enemy ships. But what is it? In order for the Enterprise and other Federation ships to be able to travel across our galaxy in such a short time, they must do one of two things: travel faster than the speed of light (Insert laugh here for breaking laws of physics), or use Warp Drive to shrink the distance being traveled.

     Yes, you read that correctly. Warp Drive allows the Enterprise and her crew to contract the space-time continuum in front of it and then expand the area behind it, simultaneously "moving" the ship to its final destination. by creating a large gravity well and an even larger amount of "negative energy", one could theoretically expand the area behind the ship, thus pushing the ship along. Below is a video detailing the exact theory first introduced by Mexican Physicist Miquel Alcubierre.

     Now there are many problems with this theory, the biggest being the safety of the ship. This is where a certain Starfleet officer, Chief Engineer Lieutenant Geordi LaForge (NextGen), does a very good job explaining how the ship protects herself while traveling at Warp Speed.

     The Enterprise uses matter-antimatter reactions, which produce high energy plasma, commonly referred to as "electro-plasma", with its own magnetic field. This special plasma reacts with the ships "warp coils", casting a warp "bubble" around the ship. This Warp bubble allows the ship to be unaffected by the drag of the space time continuum and permits the safety of all on board. Below are illustrations of said Warp bubble provided by HowItsMade.

"Set phasers to Stun"

     Another technology needed in any Trek production is a phaser, which has 2 main settings: Stun or Kill. Each setting has varying degrees, but I want to focus on the Stun setting specifically. Being it much easier to develop a laser based technology to kill, but significantly more challenging to develop a system that solely stuns the victim.

     When used effectively in this latest Star trek reboot, the Stun setting will render any life form unable to move, usually due to unconsciousness. More severe Stun settings are needed to work on different organisms, but the science behind the Stun setting is the more interesting aspect to study.

     Phaser technology was developed as a way to direct pure energy from a handheld device. It was to have multiple uses from breaking objects into smaller pieces, and also to be used against possible adversaries in self-defense for Starfleet officers. The handheld Phaser would generate a varying amount of energy from chemical reactions inside the device, and would then harness the energy into one, coherent beam. This is similar to a very high powered laser.

     As far as the Stun setting goes, it is similar to stun guns used already in today's world. By producing a large enough charge, one can induce a severe enough pain to cause temporary paralysis or unconsciousness. The main difference between today's stun guns and tomorrows phasers are the ability to shoot said energy in a laser-like beam without the energy dissipating and hurting those around the intended target.  Unfortunately, the trek community accepts this technology pretty widely, and so there are no visual examples I am able to provide with this example.

"Live Long and Prosper"

I would like to dedicate this post to the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) for not only being an exceptional sci-fi writer, but also an amazing man who always put others before him. I would also like to dedicate this post to the one and only Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), who inspired generations to pursue the truth through logic and understanding, and followed his advice to the letter. Rest in peace gentlemen.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ant-Man Can Pack A Punch

In one of the endless amount of Marvel movies that has recently made its way to the silver screen, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), comes across new technology built by ex-SHIELD scientist Hank Pym. This technology, a super suit, allows the wearer to shrink down to the size of an ant, hence the name of the movie, and return back to its original size when the wearer is finished. He must use this coveted technology to stop a HYDRA backed project of similar design. Now that we have examined this ridiculous plot far enough to not give any spoilers, we can examine the physics of Ant-Mans heroic adventure.

Even if scientists found a way to shrink a human down tot he size of an ant, there would be too many problems with the process for the human to survive. But, this is a movie, so we can disregard any rational thinking and assume everything works out just fine when humans are shrunk to 1/1000th of their original size.

The movie actually does a good job explaining one concept of shrinkage; and that is increased density of the individual after being shrunk. When a person is shrunk down, the space between their atoms is shortened, meaning they still have the same amount of mass with the same number of atoms, but have a drastically reduced volume for those atoms to reside in. The average density of a human being is 985 kilograms per cubic meter. If shrunk to 1/1000th of their original volume and kept their same mass, their density would become 1000 times denser resulting in the density of the shrunken individual to be 985000 kilograms per cubic meter. This would result in a shrunken human, less than half an inch tall, to have all the mass of their normal size, causing a massive density shift.

The movie explains how when Ant-Man, in his shrunken state, punches someone, in carries all the weight of the punch, over a smaller surface area, equal to "being shot by a bullet." And while the density shift in the previous paragraph does confirm the effect itself, it most likely would not have enough power as a speeding bullet, maybe a low caliber bullet. And even with this new-found "strength", Newtons 3rd law still applies. If Ant-Man were to punch someone in his shrunken state, his now shrunken figure would feel the same recoil a gun would from shooting said bullet. And being as small as Ant-Man is, would most likely kill him as well as the bad guy he punched.

Below is a video explaining these two concept and even more problems with shrinking humans down to that size. Guest star Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) himself will help explain the problems with his own movie. It is a tad longer than other videos I found, but well worth the time.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Oceans!!! They're Rising!!! - Day After Tomorrow Post

Over the last 18 years alone, according to NASA, the average height of the worlds oceans has risen over 65 mm. Now, that may not sound like much, given its the equivalent of about 6 and a half centimeters, but one must think about just how much space the ocean covers on Earth. There is 2.25 x 1011 square meters that the SURFACE of our ocean covers. Adding a 6.5 centimeters or .065 meter depth to that would calculate to 1.46 x 1010 cubic meters of water. Enough to fill every swimming pool on earth, 13 times. Below is a graph of the water level over the last twenty years.

This 6.5 centimeters, while relatively small now, is continuing to grow at an increasing rate, as the ice covering Antarctica and Greenland is being melted away by a higher global temperature. All this ice runs into the ocean, increasing the total volume of water in our oceans. Another significant factor in rising sea level is Thermal Expansion. The same heat that is melting the ice caps, is also heating the mean temperature of the ocean. This causes the individual molecules of water to move more vigorously, thus taking up more space. The video below better explains the combination of the two phenomena and their impacts of sea levels.

As far as the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, is concerned, while the basic premises of thermodynamics are correct and the movie does a good job of explaining the science, the time it takes for the entire process to happen in the movie is way too quick. Even if some idiot scientist cracked half of a glacier and caused it into the sea, the effects of such an event would speed up the process, but not enough for a global winter in 15 days.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

2001: A Space odyssey = BEST MOVIE EVER!!!!!

If you have not watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, drop whatever you are doing and go watch it now! This cinematic masterpiece has been alive longer than anyone that will ever read this post, yet still stands as the one of the greatest sci-fi movies, if not best in all categories. With its revolutionary cinematography and its surprisingly sound use of physics, many critics argue that it is the greatest or most important sci-fi movie ever made. If you have not seen it, you are in for an epic story that one anonymous critic has only called a "cultural experience".

Cinematically speaking, this almost 3 hour long masterpiece will take you to new places in an exploration of the solar system and humans relationship with the planets. Amazing special effects and a brilliant use of cameras means that at no point in the movie will your eyes be anywhere but the screen. Since the total spoken dialogue of the film is less than a thousand words, and since there are no spoken words until the 25th minute of the movie, you wont have to focus on missing whatever the actors are saying, but can instead bask in the glory that is the thought provoking plot that director, Stanley Kubrick, provides with his excellent use of visual stimulation and eerily misplaced music that belongs in a museum, not a sci-fi movie.

Now, physically speaking, this movie set a precedent for all future action or sci-fi movies with its exceptional uses of good physics. One of the most acclaimed examples of this, is the use of artificial gravity inside the space ship. Instead of filming a scene where everyone is on the bridge of the USS Enterprise and not explaining why they aren't all floating (yes, I'm throwing shade at you, star trek), this masterpiece uses a spinning spaceship, that uses centripetal force to hold the astronauts towards the outer spinning wall. And, ever since then, other movies (except star trek) have either used this same explanation or been compelled to give their own explanation for the artificial gravity aboard their ships. below is a great demonstration of said artificial gravity.

So, in conclusion, this marvelous masterpiece of cinematic gold should be #1 on your to watch list, even if you've already seen it before. I really, really don't want to give away the ending, so instead I will leave you with this one final piece of advice... NEVER watch this movie on drugs...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why can't The Flash run at the speed of light? - Because of Physics, that's why...

So, by now, we all understand that Albert Einstein was a genius, and everyone knows his most famous equation, E=mc2, but few seem to understand how this ties into his theories of Special and General Relativity. And there is a very good reason for this, its because his theories are complicated. So I, a freshman in a physics in film class, am going to do my best to explain special relativity.

Special Relativity is used for objects traveling on a constant velocity, whereas General Relativity is used for objects that are accelerating. The first thing needed to explain why the flash cannot run at the speed of light is to define the variables behind Einsteins infamous equation. Below are the variables.

          E = Kinetic energy for the object in motion
          m = Mass of the object
          C = Speed of light = Constant = 3x108 meters per second

Since C, the speed of light, is a constant, this means the the kinetic energy and mass of the object are the only fluctuating values. This means that the faster one moves in a single direction, will result in an apparent gaining of mass from stationary spectators. 

So, focusing on Special Relativity, our superhero, The Flash, comes into play. If he were to run by a stationary spectator, he would appear to be gaining mass as his speed increased. Once he nears the speed of light, his apparent mass has become so grand, that he is no longer able to produce enough force against the ground to accelerate any further, thus only being able to reach a final velocity close to the actual speed of light.

There are other factors that come into play with Special Relativity, such as the perceived slowing of time and the perceived length of object moving at such a speed. But, seeing as these play no real factor into the possibility of The Flash making it to the speed of light, I will save them for another date (arguably because my brain is still spinning from trying to understand the principles themselves).

This information is all thanks to chapter 6, titled "Like a Flash of Lightning - Special Relativity", in The Physics of Superheroes, by James Kakalios. In, which is supposed to be a "basic" understanding of physics, except for maybe this particular chapter.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

NASA's comet-ment to kicking your asteroid.

As we proved in class, Armageddon's way of deflecting incoming asteroids is completely useless and would just result in two halves of an asteroid hitting the sides of the planet instead of one giant asteroid. So in the real world, what is the plan to deflect or destroy an incoming asteroid?

Well before I get to NASA's actual plan, I first want to describe an upcoming project NASA is planning that will hopefully lead to a better understanding of asteroids and their place in our solar system. The project is called ARM or Asteroid Redirect Mission. Its purpose is to locate a small asteroid close enough to Earth and to redirect it so that it will safely orbit our moon. this will then let NASA astronauts go on a mission to analyze many factors behind the asteroid such as its chemical composition and topographical features. This will further our understanding of asteroids in our solar system and how to deal with them.

With that being said, NASA was called upon by Congress in 2005 to present defense plans against an incoming asteroid. After two years of research (because of such a reduced budget), they returned to present their plans to Congress. They presented four plans that worked best for different asteroids, but argued that the most reasonable and most effective plan is to detonate a series of "standoff" nuclear blasts. This means that nuclear bombs would be sent near the surface of the asteroid and detonate close enough to push the asteroid off course little by little. NASA scientists agreed that having the bomb on the surface or beneath the surface would create smaller chunks of asteroid with unpredictable trajectories. Having a series of nuclear bombs detonate near the asteroid would push the asteroid into a different trajectory with every blast. Below, I have drawn a diagram of what this would look like. the dotted line would be the original course of the asteroid, the small asterisks would be nuclear explosions near the asteroid, and the solid line would be the resultant course of the asteroid after the detonations.

Through the series of nuclear detonations, The course of the asteroid would slowly be altered. After enough explosions, the course would change enough to miss the Earth entirely. By having the nuclear bomb detonate near the asteroid, and not on the surface, you lessen the risk of pieces of the asteroid breaking off and entering the Earth's atmosphere.

All we can hope for is that NASA uses astrophysicists and make them learn about nuclear explosions, and not use nuclear technicians and make them learn astrophysics, or better yet... have both of them work together to save the planet...