Saturday, November 21, 2015

Through the Wormhole - Interstellar

"Interstellar" is one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies in recent memory due to its great use of good physics. There are many theoretical concepts that go into this film, many of which are never portrayed correctly in Hollywood but "Interstellar" seems to be the exception to that trend.  Many of the concepts raise many questions but the two I would like to draw attention to are Miller's planet and Wormholes as these two plot points have drawn the most questions out of me.  I chose Miller's planet because of the oddities behind, seemingly covered in liquid water and massive waves but only with a few feet of water on the surface seems far fetched.  I went with the wormhole directly since it is the most fiction concept in the film due to the fact that it is not a natural occurrence.

Miller's planet is extremely interesting because of its composition and position relative to Gargantua.  It is the closest planet to Gargantua that was shown in the film and possibly the most unique, seemingly covered entirely with water it is a rare planet  and even has a substantial atmosphere but too extreme to live on.  Not just because it has 130% of Earth's gravity but it is so close to the horizon that it has extremely high levels of gravity acting on it that cause intense tidal gravity.  As seen in the film, massive waves that are 1.2 kilometers high travel over the surface leaving the water in the swells seemingly calm and shallow.  As stated in Kip Thorne's book The Science of Interstellar these gigantic waves can be caused by one of two things, the first being the rocking of the planet due to the amount of gravity being exerted on it by Gargantua.  This intense gravity causes the planet to rock back and forth or left and right causing the water on the surface to slosh around in an event similar to "tidal bores" here on Earth.  The second explanation for this phenomena still involves the rocking but not the surface water sloshing but, instead the mantle below moving around constantly causing hourly tsunamis on the water above.  Miller's planet is not ripped apart by this gravity because one side of the planet is always facing Gargantua, this also explains the extreme time dilation found on the planet.  It is estimated the planet orbits Gargantua once every 1.7 hours, that is a 1.7 hour year.  This means that Miller's planet must be rotating at an extremely high rate in order to keep one side of the planet constantly facing Gargantua, similar to how one side of the Moon is always facing Earth.  The planet would be going at ten revolutions per second and due to the deformed space around it, it would not feel any centrifugal forces, in fact it would seem normal.  
The wormhole in "Interstellar" is probably one of the most substantial plot points as there would be none if it did not exist.  In the film, the wormhole is suspected of being placed near Saturn by an super-advanced race of interstellar traveling beings or inter-dimensional beings.  As Romilly explains, space has been bent and poked through, creating a passageway across an incredible distance, allowing the crew to travel to another galaxy which would be impossible without the wormhole.  What would it take to create something like this and is it even theoretically possible?  The only way a wormhole can exist naturally is on a submicroscopic level, it is from here that Kip Thorne believes an advanced race could create a wormhole or, rather, exploit an already existing one.  They would have to expand the "quantum foam" to a massive size and be able to brace the bulk with some material that will not allow the wormhole to collapse upon entry.  In the film, the wormhole never collapses and the crew is able to pass through it without any trouble at all, showing that whoever put it there knew what they were doing.  The possibility of a wormhole is plausible but only in the hands of a race evolved well beyond our understanding, being that live in the bulk of the wormhole.  The human race could never accomplish something as magnificent as this as we are now but if the movie is correct and we do in face evolve into a higher race then maybe something as monumental as a wormhole would be simple to us.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Star Trek Tech

The 2009 "Star Trek" reboot has gotten good reviews across the board and brings in new fans to the series but has driven some hardcore fans away due to its alternate timeline.  Many of the film's plot points, however, stay true to the original "Star Trek" technology.  One piece of technology that seemed to be accurate is the classic warp drive.  The warp drive is an all important plot device in this film, without the warp drive, the U.S.S. Enterprise would not be able to make it to other planets in the timely manner that it does.  The warp drive allows the Enterprise to travel to far reaching planets and systems in a fraction of the time that it would usually take, the physical limitations without the warp drive are too daunting and the plot of "Star Trek" would be nonexistent without it.  If there was no warp drive, it would take several years, decades and centuries to travel to Alpha Centauri alone. Thanks to the warp drive, U.S.S. Enterprise and other Star Fleet spacecraft can travel several light years in a matter of days or possibly weeks by traveling beyond the speed of light.  Time dilation would be a factor however, the people on the moving Star Fleet ships would age much slower in comparison to the people or creatures on Earth and the planets that they visit since they are traveling well beyond the speed of light.  
Another piece of technology that is central to the plot of "Star Trek"would be the transporter.  The transporter is not really explained but from what I can tell it transports a person or object in a fixed position to another fixed position on a specific transporter pad.  This technology is important to the plot of the film because in several seems it allows the main characters to avoid certain death in an instant.  This is also a plot device for getting Kirk back on the Enterprise and bring Scotty in as a central character due to his equations involving transporting during warp.  This technology would be needed to warp crew members to and from the Enterprise in time sensitive situations such as the rescue on Volcan or beaming Kirk and Sulu during free fall.  Physical limitations would be having to manually travel to the surface of the planet or trying to catch up with a ship during warp which is virtually impossible (at least until "Star Trek: Into Darkness")
It is hard to say whether or not these two types of technologies would be possible outside of science fiction.  Warp drive technologies may be a possibility in the distant future as interstellar space travel becomes more of a necessity but the feasibility of transporter capabilities is low at best.  I do not see a terrible amount of money or time being spent into de-materializing and materializing an organism or object from one place to another.  Not only would this be incredibly dangerous but it would also be wasteful if sufficient transport abilities already exist.  I also do not see the threat of space miners creating a singularity in the center of a planet as a realistic threat in the real world.  That being said, this technology would be useful but finding out how to create it (if at all possible) would not be worth it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Weapons of Mass Destruction

This week we had a fantastic double feature on our hands dealing with World War II era warfare and the introduction of weapons of mass destruction.  The first film,"Fat Man and Little Boy" dealt with the Americans behind the first two atomic bombs and what it was like for a team to be working on such a weapon.  The film began to focus on the moral dilemma of having a weapon that could wipe out hundreds of thousands or even millions of people at a time.  The scientists working on the project began questioning their actions and what they were working on  while the military leaders were mostly pushing for the weapon to be completed, even though Germany had surrendered by this time.  This brings up the moral question, is it right to have a weapon of mass destruction or weapons at the disposal of one man or one country?  "Gojira" attempts to answer this question with a single scientist and his own weapon.  In this film, Godzilla is destroying Japan and taking thousands of lives, a single scientist has created a weapon that can kill the monster while doing research on oxygen but is reluctant to use it because he knows that after he does the leaders of the world will want to use it against other humans.  You can see that the plot from both films begins to converge on this moral dilemma.  On one hand you could let more people die while trying to stop the monster or country slowly.  On the other hand you can destroy the monster in one or two foul swoops but wipe out countless lives in the process.

If I were a scientist doing research that may go into weapons of mass destruction I would most likely stop, contributing to the creation or advancement of such weapons just seems inhumane.  There is no reason to build a weapon that could wipe out millions of human beings, the majority of which are not even combatants but citizens.  I would not be OK with this kind of research but if for some reason I did contribute I would embrace it.  A scientist should never have regrets or doubt themselves in what they do, even if it has terrible outcomes.  A scientist should always live up to their mistakes and either learn from them or suffer the consequences of such actions.  In light of this, if there is a way to avoid the damage or at least reverse it, I would personally try to do one of those things in order to make amends for the possible mistakes to be made.  If working on weapons was the only position for a scientist to take then I would most likely switch fields, I would not mind working on weapons if they were for combat use only and could lead to easier victories but if they are weapons of mass destruction intended on wiping out civilians then I would be forced to decline.  Thankfully, even though weapons have advanced greatly since WWII there have not been anymore nuclear attacks on any nations or aggressors and there does not seem to be any immediate danger regarding such attacks. If such weapons were to fall into the hands of the morally corrupt then concern would be well established but what would be the proper retaliation in this situation?  Dropping more bombs would only lead to more loss of life and the possible end of the world but if nothing is done to stop this kind of aggressor then they would continue to take lives as well.  Here we have a grey area that should not exist, the creation of atomic bombs is a great mistake in human history, I believe that without them the world would feel much safer.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Day After One Hundred Years

This week we watched the film "The Day After Tomorrow" and saw just what could happen if we stay on the current course and ignore global warming, even though the film had a very inaccurate timeline some of the events in it could actually come true. To avoid this we should take a better look at the aspects of global warming or maybe just one, The aspect I would like to take a look at is the impact on global weather, us residents of Charleston have caught a glimpse of this impact on weather by global warming up close with the recent flooding all across the state of South Carolina.  This is just one example of the extreme weather patterns and evidence of a rising sea level as well as an increase in flooding.  This blog post will be more to show the real time effects of global warming rather than distant future outcomes.  The video below shows us the effects happening to day and that could continue to worsen in the coming decades due to tidal flooding and rising sea levels.
As you can see, flooding is already bad along the East coast and will only get worse due to global warming, not only is flooding itself a problem but along with extreme weather patterns it can turn into a disaster.  We see these disasters unfolding more and more each day and they can all be linked to global warming, more specifically, human-caused climate change.
With the combination of all these events caused by global climate change we can see that something must be done, it may be too late to reverse it but slowing down this rapid change and increase in extreme weather may be viable.  Cleaner, more reliable and renewable sources of energy could be used.  Going green by recycling more, driving less, limiting uses of resources and many other small things could aid in the slowing down of global warming.  With the evidence provided the human race should be acting more urgently in limiting the effects of global climate change to the weather and sea levels because the effects could happen faster than we initially thought.