Re-Blog: Plasma Power Is Problematic


(Originally posted 9/7/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

If the gringa’s dear readers are anything like herself, you have spent plenty of time watching shows like Star Trek and reading fantastic science fiction. That means you’ve heard plenty of references to plasma: plasma storms, plasma discharges, plasma cannons, etc. But what the heck is plasma? Is it good for anything? Can we harness its power? Here’s the scoop on plasma.


Plasma is an ionized gas. What that means is that atoms, molecules and all kinds of stuff are constantly being converted into ions. This happens by removing electrons from the affected substance. An ion contains an electrical charge when conversion is complete. That means plasma packs a wallop of a punch. And there is lots of plasma throughout our Universe.


The Sun’s mass makes up nearly the entire mass of our Solar System, 99.85% of it. That mass creates gravity so powerful it squishes things together, like atoms, creating a fusion reaction which makes… wait for it… PLASMA.


99.999% of the Sun is plasma. Scientists estimate that more than 99% of all matter exists in a plasma state. If so much of it is lying about, why aren’t we humans using it for electricity and power and stuff? Why are we still in the Stone Ages with coal and petroleum? Because cosmic plasma is a bit trickier than the plasma we find here on Earth, like lightning. The Sun’s plasma is not just electrified. It also has its own magnetic field. And, boy is it hot!

Because of the magnetics that are part and parcel of the Sun’s plasma, harnessing our nearest star as an energy source would prove to be highly disruptive to communications. Basically, radio frequencies would fry. You see, the Sun is a fusion nuclear reactor way up in the sky. The gringa’s not sure, then, if direct solar power would really be “green” energy.


To harness the power of cosmic plasma for terrestrial use, scientists would have to, theoretically, confine the reactor. Yep, that means putting the Sun in a box, so to speak. Despite years of research, little progress has been made to figure out how to do that and humanity survive in the end. One reason is because scientists have no idea how cosmic plasma and the resulting fusion reaction would affect any barrier they might construct as a containment field. Yeah, those invisible forcefields on Star Trek? Mm hmm. Pure fantasy.


But despite this frustration, scientists remain committed to finding a solution. They are well aware that the current energy sources of Earthlings are finite. One day all the coal will be gone. There will be no more crude to suck from the ground. And even developing more solar and wind energy supplies will only take the entire globe so far. Large industrial areas and densely populated regions will need the power of plasma if they want a constant, reliable power supply.


But why can’t scientists seem to make any progress? In order to test a theory, a scientist must conduct a controlled experiment that re-creates the conditions. Since there is no way to reproduce the 15 million degree Fahrenheit temperature of the Sun, um, yeah, progress is pretty much going nowhere. 


Sure, science has come up with fun gadgets like plasma balls that are basically sold as lighting novelties. But that glass bottle is not anywhere close to being sufficient to bottle a chunk of the Sun. Scientists literally have to find a way to put a sizable piece of the Sun inside of something.


And finding a substance that can withstand temperatures in excess of the 100 million degrees produced by fusion reactions has to do more than not melt. When the plasma comes into contact with the barrier, it must remain pure and clean. 


The gringa can only wonder what the heck might happen should those walls fail. Will half the globe be scorched to infinity in a split second? Will the survivors on the other side of the globe become so radiated they die a slow, agonizing death over the course of the next few weeks or months? Or will a wave of plasma ride the ionosphere to the other side and the survivors know that death is on the way because their blue sky turns blood-red? Or will they basically be cooked alive from a sudden increase in temperature? In other words, will the entire globe become a microwave oven?


Scientists claim that plasma energy will be the cleanest energy ever. Yet, at the same time they are conducting research on the effects of radiation and plasma damage. So, the gringa remains skeptical about the “green” selling points.


Science communities around the world hope to have the first plasma reactor operational by 2018.

Nuclear science professors at MIT explain that the general public shouldn’t expect any real development of commercial plasma fusion reactors for about two more decades. The gringa will be at an age by that time where I might actually appreciate the prospect of a quick and relatively painless death. But, for the sake of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I suppose I should keep a watchful eye on the developments of this future energy source.


Sources:

Plasma Universe


Science Learn


University of California San Diego


Image Credit: Space.com

Video Credits:

Science Channel


Seeker

A Revolt Against Reality


(Originally posted 8/15/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

Has the gringa’s dear readers been equally fascinated as the gringa about theories that humanity exists inside a space alien civilization’s advanced alternate reality game? Has it made you pause and deeply ponder such possibilities? Have you ever looked deeply into your own eyes in a mirror and wondered, “How do we really know what is real?” Well, the gringa has good news, depending on how you look at it, brought to us all by some Australian physicists.


The dear reader may ask how their experiments, supposedly proving that reality doesn’t really exist, could be good news. Well, in light of all the trouble and suffering that perpetually exists throughout the world despite mankind’s best efforts to make things better, well, all this mayhem may not even be our fault! 


Or, another perspective could take a different tack. Now that we know that we don’t necessarily control our reality, humanity could possibly stage a revolt. We could simply refuse to play anymore. We could all engage in a worldwide sit-in refusing to participate in ET theatre. But, first, to the experiment.


First, one must understand the experiment: The John Wheeler delayed-choice thought experiment, also called the Wheeler thought experiment.  This experiment poses a theoretical question: When does an object decide to act like one thing or another at the atomic level? In other words, at some point, atoms have to decide how they will work together to “be” something. How do they do this?


Physicists from the Australian National University, Andrew Truscott and Roman Khakimov, performed the following experiment to answer these very complex questions:

  • They used fancy equipment to trap a single helium atom.
  • They dropped the atom through a pair of lasers that created a scattered grating pattern.
  • Another set of lasers were added at different intervals to recombine the laser beams to make it seem as if the single atom was traveling 2 separate paths.
  • When the second set of lasers were removed, the atom seemed to make a choice by preferring one particular laser beam.

What does this prove? According to Truscott it shows an atom making a choice based on belief which then caused it to transform into that as reality. Here is his complicated premise broken down:

  • First, the scientist must recognize that final outcome reflects that the atom really did choose a particular path.
  • By accepting atom choice as proven, theoretically the future expectation was affected by the past experience of the atom.
  • Fact: The atom did not actually travel from point A to point B, only simulated by the laser beams.
  • Fact: The wave-like behavior indicating travel by the atom only came into existence AFTER the scientists measured the data of the entire laser beam journey experiment. 
  • Fact: Simulation caused the atom to choose to create a false reality.

To clear up the confusion, think of it like this:

  • You bake a cake.
  • Before icing it you overlay the cake with holographic images of different icing designs.
  • You ooh and aah over a particular selection.
  • When finished perusing all your options, you turn off the holographic projector and discover the cake is the iced cake design you oohed and aahed over.
  • You then, quite naturally, freak out.

So what does this tell us about our own reality where matter is based on atomic structure? It means that atoms only arrange themselves AFTER being observed. In other words, reality as we know it only happens after observation by an audience. Since that observation cannot be the subject of said observation, then atom based humanity must be being observed by someone, or something, else.

Yes. The gringa is sufficiently freaked out. I feel naked. I feel embarrassed about all those time I picked my nose thinking that I was alone. I am also really ticked off about all this suffering, wondering if it could all be stopped instantly if the observers would just stop being such sociopaths. The gringa is ready for a revolution of all humanity on a quantum physics level. Who wants to join me?

Sources:

Image Credit: 

Video Credit:

Slingshot Time Travel With Cosmic Strings


If you have read sci-fi novels or watched sci-fi flicks, then you have heard about cosmic strings. If you have dabbled in physics and astronomy you have probably heard about string theory. But, really, what the heck is a cosmic string? What do they do? Do they really exist? Are they space garbage that can be recycled for another purpose?

You know how Enterprise always seems to encounter some kind of space “anomaly” that causes all sorts of mayhem and the crew doesn’t know what the heck it is? That’s pretty much what life is like for space explorers now. We really have no idea what kind of stuff is out there in outer space. Cosmic strings are just one such anomaly.

Cosmic strings exist. They’re weird. They have different textures. They have walls that define their domains. They’re powerful, possibly containing the energy-mass of our Sun within a tube about one billion of a billionth the size of an atom.  And scientists don’t know much more about them.

The gringa supposes that it’s a good thing that there are not very many of them, as far as we know. Running into such a weird anomaly could be disastrous for astronauts that don’t know what they are dealing with. But some scientists are not above guessing, er, um, theorizing about cosmic strings.

Physicist J. Richard Gott introduced the novel idea of using cosmic strings for time travel. Scientists suspect that these stringlike objects had something to do with how the early universe formed. They are left-over tidbits whose job is all done. Or not. Perhaps they could be upcycled to warp space-time near a black hole making time-travel possible. Is Gott for real?

Cosmic strings are skinnier than an atom. And they are taut, like a rubber band, because they are under immense pressure. So, just like when you launch a spitball by pulling back a rubber band, Gott thinks the same concept could be applied to cosmic strings. But we wouldn’t actually strap a spaceship to a cosmic string and slingshot it across the Universe.

To make Gott’s theory work, he proposes relocating two strings so that they are close together. Because of the great pressure they are under, putting two close together would create a massive gravitational pull on anything that passed near them. The strings would basically suck in a spaceship at such an incredible speed that the crew would experience time dilation.

Time dilation is a fancy way of saying you have changed the passage of time. On Earth, six months may have passed. For astronauts on a cosmic string launched spaceship bound for Mars, the trip might only take one month. They return home to find everyone a couple of years older yet maybe they only experienced the passage of a few months. Yep. Cosmic strings are weird.

The gringa can imagine the rich and the famous exploiting cosmic string travel as the next great fountain of youth treatment. Maybe we could blast across the galaxy our worst criminals on multiple trips. This could essentially leave them for the next generation to sort out. We could find all sorts of crazy uses for time dilation travel.

But Gott’s theory goes further. If the strings were positioned near a black hole, he thinks we could warp time-space and create what he calls a “closed timelike curve”.  This would make true time-travel possible. Currently, time-travel is theorized to only be possible to make trips into the future that are one-way. A person cannot travel back into the past, only forward into the future. But Gott thinks he has found a way to yesterday.

The compounded effects of gravity on a spaceship by two cosmic strings and a black hole could create a loop with the cosmic strings. This powerful loop would propel the spaceship back through time. But there’s a catch. To re-visit a previous birthday just one year prior, a loop of cosmic string powerful enough would need the mass-energy of our entire galaxy. So, basically you sacrifice the life of everyone and everything in the present just to return to life of a year ago. Not so sure it’s worth it. Today doesn’t seem so bad.

Sources:  Astronomy Cafe

Science – How Stuff Works

Science Daily

Image Credit: Pinterest

Video Credits:  FloatingUniversity

National Geographic

 

Ghostly Cats & Spectral Zookeepers


How many of the gringa’s dear readers believe in the existence of ghosts? According to the Pew Research Center, 18% of all Americans claimed to have seen a ghost, 29% claim to have felt a touch by a ghost, and more than 30% believe in the existence of ghosts. So, no need to feel embarrassed or alone if you are pro-ghost.

The gringa used to believe in the existence of ghosts until I became familiar with dark matter and learned that the human consciousness can exist outside the human body.

I even have two ghost stories of my own!

#1. When the gringa was in middle school, I spent a week at a lake cabin with a friend’s family. I got to have my very own room. The first night sleeping alone in this new space, I was awakened by the feeling of something jumping onto the foot of the bed. I then felt the sensation of what I assumed to be cat paws gently walking alongside my body then settling down to sleep beside me. It even felt warm. Since I was an animal lover and it was dark, I didn’t even bother to rouse myself enough to peek at the cat. I wanted to be a good bed partner and not disturb its desire to rest. This happened all week. I don’t remember what day during the week I mentioned my nightly visitor to my hosts. But I do remember their response and how tense my nights were after I found out that they had no cat. The gringa believed she was sharing her bed with a ghost cat, or, at least the consciousness of a cat. A friendly sort, though.

#2. My other ghost story is not really a ghost story at all, but a tale of how ornery the gringa can be. One of my sisters was a bit of a drama-mama. When we moved into a new house she was a bit freaked out by the news that the previous owner’s husband had died in the house. She was further convinced this was terrible news because, apparently, it had been his dream home, constructed according to his own design, and where he retreated for a pleasant retirement. Until he dropped dead just a few months into said retirement. She was convinced that an attachment like that could only mean that ol’ Mr. Walker would be haunting the place. The gringa was happy to oblige her imagination.

We shared a room so it was easy for the gringa to prank her. I would really step up my game if she annoyed me for any reason. She was a bit of a neat freak and very orderly. I would swipe things like a hairbrush or trinket box then put it in a strange place, like the closet shelf for her shoes or inside our shared stereo’s cabinet for the record player (yes, it’s been that many years ago). The gringa would then feign innocence, absolutely baffled and mystified how such things could happen. Then I would casually say, “Well, I guess it was Mr. Walker. Maybe he didn’t like it that you left your hairbrush out.” or something to that effect. It would get her every single time. And I have never told her different. Even now, as middle-aged adults, she thinks that old house is haunted or else she knows the truth and is humoring the gringa.

But is it possible for an old house to be haunted by a dead person’s consciousness who is so attached that they don’t want to leave? Can animal spirits inhabit the earth after their death? The gringa can only say that, according to what she knows of dark matter and conscious existence outside of our physical body, yeah, it’s possible. But it wouldn’t be a ghost as we traditionally know it. It would actually be that person or animal’s consciousness minus their physical body. Their consciousness existing in the dark matter universe, yet able, from time to time, to exercise whatever it is that allows them to somehow manifest themselves to us in this universe.

Now, the gringa doesn’t think that means that a person would be subjected to 24-hour surveillance by such. To exist in a state where physical form, or matter, doesn’t matter (pardon the pun), that means one could not exist in a world where the laws of physics makes matter, um, matter. What the gringa thinks happens is that hiccups in space or, perhaps, bursts of concentrated energy by a consciousness, allows for a breakthrough between the two worlds. A “ghostly” encounter then occurs.

For ghost-phobic individuals, there is good news if you are getting ready to re-locate. A website, DiedInHouse.com, is a database that links death announcements, certificates and law enforcement records to home addresses. It costs about twelve bucks for the service but you find out more than just if your prospective home might contain a ghost. You will discover if it was ever used as a lab for making methamphetamines, has a history of fire, if a sex offender was ever registered there and if it is in a flood zone. But I digress.

Is haunting a serious problem in homes? The gringa’s research reveals that hauntings are commonly reported. Sometimes they even lead to lawsuits. However, many people live with ghosts just fine. And it’s not just houses that can be haunted. In the gringa’s neck of the woods even the Houston Zoo is reported to be haunted by its first zookeeper who was a bit of a peeping Tom.

Houston media has made the most of this local legend. Just about every area newspaper, radio station or television news syndicate has a story about Nagel in their archives. Considering that he wasn’t just a zookeeper, but also a trainer of big cats, the gringa suspects Nagel had a consciousness bigger than life with that kind of courage and steely nerves. Maybe he really is still inhabiting the space of the Houston Zoo on a dark matter level.

He survived an alligator bite in 1924. The following year he had to take some time off after a raccoon incident and, later, a monkey attack. In 1928 a 5-ton elephant stepped on him. Three years later a leopard took a swipe and laid him open. He was also nearly killed by a 450-pound lion but his trusty assistants came to the rescue. There are numerous accounts of painful encounters between Nagel and badgers, bears, porcupines, tigers and zebras. Once, a python tried to make a meal of Nagel but he got the snake in a headlock and beat him at his own squeeze game.

Locals would also call Nagel out for neighborhood wildlife problems. He captured a bobcat that was eating the poodles of the rich ladies living in River Oaks. He lassoed a wayward bull elk and a lioness that both escaped the zoo and were wandering city streets. A city filled with bayous, he was also a very popular alligator catcher when populations would become problematic.

Nagel was quite a character who also carried a pistol whenever he was on duty. His pistol came in handy when he saved a guest to the zoo from being mauled by a Bengal Tiger. This action earned him a gold medal from the City of Houston. And it may be his feisty character that ultimately led to his controversial demise and dogged refusal to leave the Houston Zoo even after death.

You see, he got himself into a bit of trouble with the law. He was accused of abuses of power by the City Park Commission. Upon the Commission’s recommendation, Houston Mayor, Walter Monteith, rescinded Nagel’s special commission as zoo police officer. But, true to Nagel’s strong-willed character (after all, when military life didn’t agree with him he ignored the rules, jumped ship and went AWOL), Nagel continued with his armed zoo patrol which ended up getting him shot dead by a legitimate law enforcement officer in 1941.

When Nagel noticed some youngsters going at in their car in the zoo parking lot, he crept into some bushes and watched. A police officer on patrol also noticed the amorous pair (and Nagel, the peeping Tom). Stopping to question the pair, the officer asked if they knew that they had an audience which, indeed, surprised them. As the officer approached Nagel, intending to handcuff him and take him down to the pokey for a firm discussion about where, exactly, his jurisdiction was (within the confines of the zoo’s grounds), Nagel decided he would not be treated in such a way. He resisted arrest. And, he was armed with his pistol. Which the officer claimed he began to reach for. So, said officer blasted him 6 times with his own pistol until Nagel lay dead in the road.

And what of Nagel? Some say he is still around, particularly hanging out in the Commissary, overseeing the food preparation for all the animals. This seems reasonable since the Commissary is the closest building to the area where he died. Staff reports hearing voices early in the morning and seeing a shadowy figure that resembles a man walking about. Zoo officials have even gone so far as to have paranormal investigators get involved. The only thing this produced were a couple of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings that do sound like human voices.

But who would he be talking to? The gringa thinks maybe to the consciousness of animals that have died at the zoo. Maybe death was the most wonderful thing to happen to a zookeeper devoted to all of those animals. Now there will be no nasty misunderstandings leading to getting bit or sliced and diced. Kind of makes dying not seem so scary after all.

Sources:

Pew Research

DiedInHouse

Houston Chronicle

Texas Archival Resources Online

Image Credit:

Mr. Wallpaper

Video Credit:

CrashCourse

New Thinking Allowed

houstonartsandmedia

Holding Time In Your Hands


What, exactly, is time? A dictionary might define time as continued progress through existence including events from the past, present and future. Or, it might describe time as a form of measurement. But either way, time is not physical. You know, meaning that it has no mass. In other words, it’s not matter that you can hold in your hands, right? Um, the gringa says prepare to have your minds blown. Physicists have gone and done it again. They have created a time crystal. What the heck?


How is a crystal time? Have you ever looked at a crystal under a microscope? Well, check out these images depicting different crystals under a microscopes:


What interests physicists in crystals and how they can be seen as “time” are the repeating patterns and symmetry, called lattices. What is even more interesting is that sometimes crystals will repeat a pattern in several direction yet opt out of other directions. Then there is the curious thing scientists call “symmetry breaking”. That is when there is disruption in a crystal’s spatial symmetry. The reason these unexpected occurrences happen is because a crystal doesn’t exert the same amount of energy in expanding and forming itself in those areas of anomalies.


In case you didn’t catch that “exert the same amount of energy” phrase, let the gringa draw your attention to that. Because that is the most amazing thing about crystals. Because they use energy to grow, a crystal is not just some dead lump of rock. It’s actually a living organic object. Granted, it’s at the lowest rung of the ladder where energy state beings exist, but, in a sense, a crystal is very much “alive”. But what’s that got to do with time?


Well, if a crystal’s physical aspect of symmetry can be seen and disrupted, albeit with a microscope, physicists want to know if a crystal’s temporal symmetry can be made manifest. In other words, convert time into a form of matter that can be touched, seen or held in the hand. Say what?!! Yeah, we’re not talking watch or clock here. We are talking the real, ambiguous, invisible concept of TIME blowing all of our minds by becoming visible and physical.


According to physicists, it’s already been done. The concept is to arrange a bunch of ions in a ring. Then they need to be cooled to bring their energy down to the lowest state possible. Theoretically, this will result in an unbroken ring of ions that are perfectly still.


Now, if the symmetry of the ring is broken, time is disrupted. That is done by rotating the ring. A turn. Kind of like how an orbit around a star marks time for a planet. But, with a crystal, the energy of this rotation can’t be extracted. It has to be conserved in order for temporal symmetry to occur, meaning time repeating itself in consistent cycles. Now, this is the theory. It sounds neat and tidy. Real life is not so simple.


When breaking things down to the quantum level, scientists find that time kind of doesn’t exist. The quantum world doesn’t care about time. When ions are cooled down in a ring on the quantum level, instead of being stationary they spin around and interact. The gringa supposes being friendly in the quantum world is more important than worrying about whether or not you’re late for a meeting. 


So, these cooled, social quantum particles kind of smear themselves about throughout space, willy-nilly, where ever they please. But scientists have discovered that certain things can provoke certain actions, allowing scientists to predict where a quantum particle might show up. This is called “Anderson Localization”, a discovery made in the 1950s.


Scientists today have discovered a particular chain of quantum particles that stick together in their ring pattern. These particles have a magnetization that can be affected by lasers to create certain rates of oscillation. This allowed scientists to measure rates of interaction between the spinning crystals. The scientists zapping these magnetized crystals left them alone to evolve on their own for awhile. They discovered that interactions began occurring at double the rate as before. Because there was nothing driving the particles to interact, since they were being left alone, the only explanation then was that the symmetry of time had been broken. Thus, a time crystal had been created.


It sounds like a lot of hoo-hah to the gringa. What’s the point? What does this mean? Does it have any usefulness? It doesn’t even sound like any of this makes sense. Maybe understanding the properties of this laser affected crystal will help the dear reader and the gringa understand the significance.

  • Changing the frequency of the laser did not change the frequency of the time crystal (remember, all energy beings, humans included, emanate a frequency, including crystals)
  • The crystal’s patterns do not repeat in space, but in time.
  • Once zapped with the laser, the crystals remain in perpetual motion yet contain no energy, which violates one of the fundamental law of physics. Thus time crystals are matter with no energy equilibrium (you know that old physics rule about for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction). Think of it like someone coming along and giving you a push in a swing and you never stop going back and forth.

So, on its most basic level, a time crystal is a form of matter that contains movement that is created without energy. The hope among scientists is that time crystals can become a never-ending energy source and the energy of time crystals can be harvested to power quantum computers. The gringa thinks, then, that “time” crystal is a misleading name. It should be something related to the perpetual energy aspect. Something like “crystal dynamo”. But nobody asked me.

The gringa would really appreciate it, however, if she could use one to power her air conditioner during the Gulf Coast summer season. My electric bills are KILLING me!

Sources: 


Technology Review


Popular Mechanics


APS Physics


Berkeley


Futurism


IFL Science


images:  Xfoor News


Pinterest


K Glyphics


https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-microscopic-view-sucrose-crystals-polarized-light-colorful-recrystallized-table-sugar-crossed-polarizers-image36097622


Video Credit:  Seeker

Dispelling Some Space Myths


(Originally posted 2/2/17 on Read With The Gringa)

If you are a dear reader of Read With The Gringa, chances are you are also a fan of science fiction. The gringa has seen every episode of her favorite series like the Star Trek franchise, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. If it’s a cheesy, classic or epic sci-fi movie, I’ve seen that, too. What about some of the common themes and aspects of this genre? Is there any kernel of truth to these commonalities or are they just creative license?

Spacecraft Explosions: Cosmic space battles between a star ship battle cruiser and a sporty, feisty spacecraft that maneuvers with lightning speed often end up with the absolute destruction of one, maybe even both. But what about those fabulous fireballs and bits and bobs of bulkhead that create an enormous blast radius. Does that really happen?

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NO! Why? Well, think about it. There is no oxygen in space! No oxygen, no fire. The best you could hope for is an insignificant spark that, pfft, quickly goes out. And the boom factor? Nope. You wouldn’t hear anything either. Sound only travels through Earth’s atmosphere because of a complex recipe of certain gases. So, that pfft effect goes for explosive sounds as well.

Human Explosion: Sci-fi takes a reverse course on the pressure effects of deep water on the human. Go deep enough in the ocean without protective gear and  the water pressure will implode you. Not a pretty sight for a human to be crushed like an aluminum soda can. Sci-fi screenwriters like to imagine the vacuum of space would result in the atoms of humans no longer experiencing enough atmospheric pressure to remain cohesive. Thus an explosion of eyeballs and fingernails. A rather gruesome and bloody prospect. Is this accurate? Would astronauts who experience spacesuit failure explode in the vacuum of space?

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First, you would quickly begin to dehydrate as water began evaporating rapidly through your pores. You would also begin to feel the chill of MINUS 455 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, instead of exploding into itty-bitty bits, you would quickly become a human ice cube. About 30 seconds to be exact.

frozen-person

The dark side of the Moon… who could live there? Well, a colony on the “dark side of the Moon” would get just as much sunlight as the “other” side of the Moon. You see, it is only the Earth that the Moon hides its backside from. That’s because of tidal influences between these two planetary objects. The Sun, on the other hand, enjoys seeing every aspect of the Moon.

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What of golden sunsets and sunrises? Are they as beautiful when seen from space? Well, they are definitely as bright but not golden. Stars, which our Sun is, have colors that are determined by their temperature. Our Sun, at about 6,000 degrees Kelvin, is actually white. It only appears yellow to us Earthlings because of how it’s short-wavelenths of blue, green and violet are scattered as they travel through Earth’s atmosphere. And you know those wavy little rays we always draw around our Suns when we are little kids? Yeah, those are all wrong too. The Sun isn’t burning. There are no flames. It is EXPLODING with gases so it’s glowing. Like a light bulb.

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Have you ever seen those crack pilots zipping about in their little shuttles, navigating like aces through the hazards of an asteroid belt? Yeah. That’s not real either. Even in a really, super crowded asteroid belt with millions of space rocks each of these hunks of geological junk are most likely hundreds of thousands of miles apart. How do you think NASA’s probes make it to the farthest reaches of space if there were such dangerous obstacles? Remember, space is really, really, really, big. Plenty of room to navigate.

asteroid_livestream

Could a huge meteor slam into a wilderness area and create a fiery crater? Nope. A crater, yes, but not a fiery one. I know, I know. The dear reader is saying, “Hold on there, gringa! I have actually seen a fiery fireball of a meteor that raced across the sky!” Yes, I am sure that you did. However, it is the outer surface of the meteor that has heated up, liquefied and converted to flaming plasma from the friction of hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere at high-speed. Its core, however, is frozen solid from a lifetime in space where temperatures are hundreds of degrees BELOW freezing. So, you would most likely end up with scattered fires from fiery plasma scattering on impact and then a soggy mess in the crater after the cosmic ice ball melts. Basically, a meteor is like a flaming snowball.

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The gringa’s really sorry if she spoiled things for you. But I must remind you that the most important thing about science-fiction is that it is FICTION. So enjoy it the way it is meant to be enjoyed… an escape from reality into fantasy for pure pleasure. Let it titillate your imagination and inspire you to greater things. But always know the difference between fact and fiction!

Sources:

NASA

David Darling

Geoffrey Landis

Stanford

How Stuff Works

www.space.com

Image Credits: Discovery Channel

Star Trek Desktop Wallpaper

YouTube

Keyword Suggestions

Top Tenz

UK2

Animal New York

Gizmodo

Ready To Ride The Lightning, Er, Photon?


If you were to hitch a ride on the Voyager I spacecraft, you would find yourself hurtling through space at 35,000 miles per hour (mph). That means it would take you about 40 years to exit our Solar System. In July, the fastest spacecraft ever built by NASA, Juno, made history as it neared Jupiter. It travels about 165,000 mph.  That means you could get to the edge of the Solar System about 5 times faster, in less than 10 years. With Mars being about 250 million miles from Earth, it would take 1,500 hours to reach Mars strapped to the back of the Juno spacecraft.  That’s about a 2 month trip. Of course,  Juno is not designed to carry a crew. It’s a robotic probe that collects environmental and scientific data.

Even if space agencies succeed in building a manned spacecraft that can deliver a crew safely to the Red Planet, a two month space flight is very problematic physically. They simply won’t be able to perform the necessary tasks. They may not even be able to survive. The gringa asks, “Is there any way to get them there faster?” Yep. If they ride lightning fast photonic capable space speedsters instead of shuttle slow, rocket propelled space cruisers.

What the heck is photonic propulsion? It may sound complicated and fancy but when you break it down it’s not so hard to understand. A photon is a particle of quantum light or some other form of electromagnetic radiation. Propulsion means to drive something forward. So, we’re talking about using light to move a spacecraft. And a physics professor named Philip Lubin believes it’s possible. Lubin is developing a photonic laser thruster system for NASA.  The project is called DEEP IN which stands for Directed Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration. If the technology works a probe could make the trip to Mars in only 3 days. A manned vessel with a full payload could make the trip in less than a month.

If you can envision a sailboat on the high seas, you can then follow the gringa as I explain how it works. A spacecraft has a solar sail. The photon thruster shoots lasers at the sail. It’s as simple as that! Well, not really, but you at least have something to work with. Tiny amounts of kinetic energy push the sail as each photon impacts the sail and then bounces off.  We would still need conventional rocket technology to launch spacecraft but, once in the vacuum of space, the sail opens and photon propulsion takes over. This means space crafts are capable of carrying a larger payload since they don’t have to carry fuel. They also have the potential of limitless distance, theoretically, of course.  Lubin expects we could reach goals like Alpha Centauri which is more than 4 light years from Earth. Take a look at what to expect next from NASA and other space agencies around the world as they all focus on how the heck we are going to get a crew to Mars:

Sources:

Popular Mechanics

www.livescience.com

www.universetoday.com

Image Credit: galacticconnection.com

 

Thanks For Nothing, Space Aliens


Fellow Earthlings, the gringa’s afraid we have not passed inspection by ETs. According to the opinion of learned astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, apparently we are just too dumb to be bothered with.  The gringa’s not sure how she feels about all of this. I mean, I have lots of questions. But before I get to all of my typical “what if’s” and “why’s”, let’s see what Tyson had to say in his recent interview with MSNBC.  The gringa, will, of course, paraphrase in her own barrio vernacular:

  • We may be smart by human standards but not so much according to advanced space alien standards.
  • Their opinion of us was so low they determined we weren’t worth the trouble to contact.
  • So, basically, intelligent beings from outer space have probably performed a fly-by and said to themselves, “Eh, why bother. Moving along, moving along.”
  • In addition to our ignorance is our arrogance that convinces us that we are quite intelligent so space aliens should just be dying to be our friends.
  • The reality is that we are youngsters in the Universe and have probably already received messages from older and wiser aliens that we were too stupid to understand.
  • We have also been irresponsible with our intelligence and technology, accidentally sending out signals that painted us as imbeciles with early television broadcasts like Howdy-Doody and I Love Lucy. Yep, what a great first impression that must have made!

Now, the gringa doesn’t argue with the fact that alien civilizations are probably much older and wiser than us. If they are able to perform a fly-by of Earth, they are also much more advanced. The gringa also does not doubt that we have probably been a terrible disappointment what with our wars, destruction of the environment and little regard to less powerful global co-inhabitants whether they be human or animal. The gringa also shamefacedly admits that humans are incredibly arrogant and often believe that they are the end-all of sophistication and technological advances despite the fact that we must surely be minimally advanced compared to our Universe counterparts. However, the gringa had hoped that our arrogance would not have been matched by the arrogance of an alien species who would have believed our worth was only in our intelligence. What about our potential?

Surely the discovery of any living, breathing, sentient, intelligent species is worth more than a casual observance as you fly-by. The gringa is reminded of the family vacation from hell when my father was intent on barreling his way across the country to see Mount St. Helen’s as it was erupting. He was a geologist who was madly obsessed with witnessing this event. He performed numerous drive-by’s along the way much in the manner I expect the aliens have: “There’s the Grand Canyon, girls!” he yells over his shoulder as we peer out our windows looking at, well, really nothing as we zoom past. All we could see in the distance were the rugged highlands surrounding the massive chasm. It was the same as we passed by Lake Tahoe. I slept, I think, through the entire passage through the Rockies, bored out of my mind I presume.

Surely after traveling vast cosmic distances, perhaps through multiple galaxies, maybe even originating from another Universe, we were worth more than a shrug as they passed over Earth’s atmosphere. The nerve, I mean. Couldn’t they see that, although there may be plenty of ignoramuses and jerks down here, there are also loads of people with fabulous potential for intelligent humility, goodness, kindness and a desire to grow in knowledge and put that knowledge to good use benefitting others? Can’t they see the battles being waged to save our planet? We could use a little help, ya know!

Besides that, aren’t they just the least little bit lonely? I mean, when the gringa walks out beneath a star-lit sky and considers the vastness of space and how we are so alone out here, surely for any species to discover another would inspire a sense of comfort and relief. Aren’t they even the least bit curious? Aren’t we even worth a poke and a prod?

The more the gringa thinks about it, the more incensed I become. How dare them think that we are not worth knowing, much less saving. Once I was willing to hop on board if given the invitation. Now, however, I think I will offer them a shrug of indifference if the invitation comes my way. The gringa is filled with the noble spirit of the captain of a ship. Maybe some of my passengers are nothing but a big, destructive pain in Earth’s proverbial hindquarters. But they are still MY fellow passengers. You can either help me save this ship or move along. I, however, will go down fighting and clinging to life, trying to save those who appreciate my efforts as well as those who obviously don’t deserve them. THAT’S the very best of being human.

 

Sources:  Tech Times

Huffington Post

Business Insider

Image Credit: www.ascensionearth2012.org

Just Say What You Mean, OKAY ALREADY!


One would think that if they heard the words “empty space” that the space mentioned is actually empty. Well, it’s stuff like this that makes science so darn confusing sometimes. You see, empty space is not REALLY empty after all. The gringa really wishes that scientists would just name stuff better, to actually mean what they say. Why couldn’t they just call it “NOT so empty space”?

Research performed by Italian and Polish scientists at the European Southern Observatory has concluded that when light is emitted by a neutron star that is quite dense (kind of like the scientists who create terms like “empty space”) as well as strongly magnetized, strange quantum happenings occur. The light becomes polarized which means that the space around that star is not “empty”. Is it a vacuum? Well, the gringa supposes that’s a misleading term as well because if it really was a vacuum it would be empty, right? Also, if there was nothing there then nothing would be going on. However, there is most CERTAINLY something going on in the not so empty “empty space” surrounding highly magnetized neutron stars. That something is called “vacuum” birefringence.

The gringa’s next question, quite naturally, then, is, “What the heck is vacuum birefringence?” What comes to mind for the gringa’s limited capabilities is the fringe of my rug re-emerging after being sucked up by the vacuum cleaner. Is that what scientists are talking about? Does the neutron star suck up some energy to produce the light then spit it back out into what was once “empty space”? Is vacuum birefringence the “exhaust fumes” of light?

Nope. That’s not at all what happens. Empty space acts more like a prism than a vacuum. The gringa would like to know, then, why the scientists didn’t call this phenomena something like “prismatic filling of otherwise empty space”. Good grief. That would explain everything! Anyway, what actually happens is the not so empty “empty space” surrounding a highly magnetized neutron star actually has all kinds of particles that can appear or disappear as they please. If the neutron star is heavily magnetized, the magnetic effect enhances these particles as the light that passes through them becomes polarized. This means that the light we see coming out of empty space does not look exactly the same as when it was created and emitted by the star.

The gringa’s next question then, quite naturally of course, is, “Is this a big deal? What’s the point? Does this information have any practical purpose for mankind or is it just one of those curious and interesting facts?” Okay, actually the gringa asked 3 questions, but surely, by now, my dear readers will humor my insatiable curiosity and long-windedness.

What it means for the science world is being able to more accurately understand the observations of stars as well as build better long-range telescopes. By understanding neutron stars better, mankind can better understand all laws of nature.

The gringa must then ask another question, “How, specifically, does that help mankind?” Well, mankind’s ancient ancestors often created superstitious or religious explanations for natural laws that they didn’t understand. We can all read historical texts or even current news headlines to realize that superstition and religion can sometimes bring out the worst in mankind. However, as science has exposed certain beliefs to be in error, mankind has been able to advance civilization toward better living conditions and more humane treatment of one another. If studying the not-so-empty space of neutron stars contributes to creating world peace, then the gringas asks one more questions, “Where can I contribute and how much do you need?”

Sources

www.sciencedaily.com

phys.org

plus.maths.org

Image Credit: www.orionsarm.com

 

Who Dat?


Strange star modulation, a phenomena the gringa will call SSD, has some scientists thinking that hundreds of space aliens are calling. The gringa says, “Who dat? What aliens? Where dey from? What dey sayin’?”

According to Cornell University published research penned by scientists E.F. Borra and E Trottier, they analyzed a swathe of sky containing more than 2.5 million stars. They discovered that 234 stars had some interesting signals that could not be explained away. The possibilities for the signals offered by Borra and Trottier are:

  • Rotational transitions of molecules (whatever the heck that means)
  • Rapid pulsations
  • Extraterrestrial intelligence

That’s right. Cornell research performed by scientists who have real science degrees believe they have discovered signals from ET’s. Borra is an astronomy professor at Quebec’s Universite Laval. Eric Trottier is one of his graduate students. And this is not the first time they have published research data crediting aliens with cosmic signals. In fact, they claim these signals are identical to previous signals they attributed to ET’s.

Working off of their possible theories for what could be the origins of the signals, they dispelled the molecule idea and rapid pulsation possibility. The reason they go with the alien origin theory is that it confirms their previous alien theory with identical signals. So, basically, the scientists began with the most sane explanations that could be disproven through known scientific methods. Once all possibilities were eliminated the only option left was ET’s.

Now, if you are skeptical as to the credibility of these two scientists, consider that much of their work, not just this alien signal stuff, has been published in reputable science and astronomy journals around the world for some time. For example: “Measurements of stellar magnetic fields with the autocorrelation of spectra” published in Astronomical Journal; “Quantitative evaluation of the hypothesis that BL Lacertae objects are QSO remnants” published in Astrophysical Journal Letters; and “Very long baseline interferometry and observations of gravitational lenses using intensity fluctuations: an analysis based on intensity autocorrelation” published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Main Journal. Now, these two fellas seem to have some very good credentials. And they believe in space aliens. It would be an understatement to say that the gringa is intrigued. Awe is a better adjective for how the gringa feels about this story.

Now, let’s then accept the hypothesis that these signals originate with extra terrestrials. What do they mean? Are they trying to contact us? Seeing as how the signals occur between hundreds of stars, the gringa wonders if it is a communication network between hundreds of alien civilizations.

Now, even if the signal is a clarion call to galactic war and mayhem, at least our generation shouldn’t have anything to worry about. The star is billions of light years away. Doubtful any alien invasion force will be arriving anytime soon. Unless some of that strange space/time continuum thing is going on. What if the signals originated millions of years ago when an alien invasion force first launched? What if the signals were scheduled to reach Earth proximity so detection was possible about the time their arrival would be imminent? Aaaargh! Now the gringa’s awe is replaced with, “Now what the heck should we do?”

Well, maybe we should all take to becoming stargazers and paying better attention to the heavens surrounding our fragile blue planet. You see, if you join or follow the work of Planet Hunters, a web based organization that networks citizen scientists in planetary and cosmic projects, you will find that they noticed strange happenings with the star quite some time ago. One of their astronomer members with a doctorate from Yale reported a 20% decrease in light about a month ago. Such a flicker is not a characteristic of stars. They either shine or they don’t.

The main star at the center of all the hoopla is KIC 8462852. Now, when the first report on this phenomena came out on this star, the gringa wrote a post about it. The scientists at the time attributed the flicker to perhaps the passage of comet fragments across the face of the star. But now that it has happened in an identical fashion, the comet theory is dead in the water. And that’s why scientists think that it is possible that a federation of 234 star civilizations are communicating with one another via lasers and we have detected their signals. The gringa is dying to say, “Hello. How ya doin’?”

Sources:

arxiv.org

Cornell University Research Library

Planet Hunters

phys.org

www.newscientist.com

Image Credit: www.techpowerup.com