Gravity has waves?

Admittedly, I am late on the whole gravitational waves discovery, however I think that this video above is probably the best explanation as to what gravitational waves are and how scientists actually managed to find evidence for the waves.

The way that scientists actually discovered the waves fascinated me most in all the of news surrounding gravitational waves. Einstein discovered, through the use of math, that these waves do exist and that they stretch and compress any object that they pass through so we are human rubber bands. Well, not really. We will never see this stretching and compressing as it occurs at an atomic level, less than an atomic diameter. Which, is nice to know, because I don’t want to be constantly stretched and compressed like a rubber band. Now even if they are proven in math we have never had evidence of these waves in real life until now. And how they discovered it is fascinating.

They took lasers positioned tangent to each other in two, 2.5-mile-long evacuated pipes and had them combine to create an interference pattern that highly depends on the distance between the two lasers. Now, what allowed them to find the gravitational wave is as the wave passed by the earth it stretched one laser and compressed the other altering the interference pattern they created when combined backed together. When the wave passed the earth, it altered the interference pattern and alas we have evidence of gravitational waves. The device that they developed to discover the waves is truly amazing.

Now I’m just waiting for someone to make a song out of the sound byte that the collision of 2 black holes made leading to the discovery of waves.

Solar Storms

Who knew there were actually storms on the surface of the earth? Well, they aren’t the storms that we are used on earth. Actually, they are quite different. Storms on the sun occur when magnetic fields throughout the sun passing through sun spots and prominences spontaneously shift dramatically. The most known of these storms are solar flares, which are shown above. A solar flare is when X-rays and charged particles are discharged from the inner sun into space and end up reaching most planets including our own. One theory behind these flares is that they occur when the magnetic fields become incredibly tangled up that they cannot bear the tension of magnetism and as a result they break and reshape into a simpler pattern, creating a huge discharge of material from the sun.

So what do these huge solar flares mean for people on earth? We are able to spot them and they actually end up reaching earth a few days later. When they do hit earth, the X-rays are absorbed by our atmosphere and create strong auroras, which are the spectacular light shows that occur in the northern hemisphere. Unfortunately these coronal mass ejections, which is the formal name of the particles these major solar flares give off, can also disrupt earth’s own magnetosphere, which causes problems to our power grid and radio communications. Solar flares, while they are beautiful in pictures and video and create for amazing aurora in the sky, can create many problems for our electrical systems and technology. The amount of technology will only increase in the next century so developing ways to protect technology from these flares is very important to protect our electrical grid.

 

The Martian – Hollywood exaggeration or accurate?

Yes, I’m super behind on my movie watching but I finally watched “The Martian” over the weekend and wow did it absolutely spark my interest in space travel and the feasibility of living on Mars for months including growing your own food…what? By the way, if you haven’t seen it yet stop reading this immediately and go watch it. It’s completely worth it and this post will spoil it for you.


 

First off, The Martian does a great job and gets some stuff right, but then again this is science fiction and so there has to be some fictional things but what “The Martian” does is not over exaggerate a ton of things making almost all of it very believable. One blatant thing that they screwed up was the storm at the beginning that stranded the astronaut on Mars after he was hit by the communication tower that the wind knocked over. The dust storm certainly could occur but not to the level it was dramatized because of the incredibly thin atmosphere Mars has. So the storm couldn’t have happened, however, a lot of other things they got right.

For instance, all the orbital dynamics and the time it would take to travel between Mars and Earth was completely dead on and one scientist even acclaimed the movie for doing the computations to determine how long the trips would take. On top of this, the slingshot the Hermes Spacecraft undertook around Earth to head back to Mars was entirely feasible as gravity assisted speed boosts are used to help satellites obtain more speed all the time.

The last two things I wanted to talk about was the ability to grow potatoes on Mars and taking off from mars in a deconstructed rocket. After doing research, I found out that the way Watney grew potatoes was entirely feasible as Martian soil can sustain food growth especially with using feces as fertilizer and obtaining water the way he did, so, in essence, his ability to grow food on Mars is plausible.

Last, what I thought was most ridiculous, was when Watney basically stripped the rocket of its nose cone and other portals so he was essentially flying into space in an open cockpit. I thought there was absolutely no way this could happen. Well, it sort of is and sort of is not feasible. I say this because currently we do not have the technology to take off from Mars because NASA has absolutely no idea how to launch a rocket from Mars at the current point in time so, in that case, it is not possible. However, the fact that the windows are off is potentially possible because the atmosphere is so thin, by the time friction (which would develop heat and thus require the heat shield to protect against the atmosphere) played a factor, it would be negligible. Therefore, it is plausible to launch a spacecraft like that.

All in all, “The Martian” does probably the best job yet of abiding to science when creating a science fiction movie and it was applauded by many scientists as well as checked by NASA to prove it was mostly valid despite a few snafus. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would strongly suggest you go see it immediately.

Sources: Guardian, Time MagazineIFLScience