Showing all posts tagged: physics

The physics of running and keeping fit on the Moon

8 July 2024

Rhett Allain, writing for Wired, looks at the physics of this important question.

If humanity is ever to establish bases on the Moon, ways of keeping occupants fit in the low lunar gravity need to be worked out. A wall of death sort of gizmo, that’s a little like a stationary hamster-wheel, but turned on its side, that emulates Earth-like levels of gravity, may be a solution. But there might be more effective alternatives.

But check out the article’s artist impression of a suited up astronaut “jogging” on the surface of the Moon. Straight up running in this way is a fanciful keep fit option unfortunately, as simple as the idea may at first seem. It’s too bad though, because what a sight it would be to behold: Earth floating in the lunar sky, as you ran.

I doubt Earth would be quite as big as depicted in Nzoka John’s image, but it still be quite the spectacle. And on the subject of what Earth might look like from the surface of the Moon, a gallery of images by American illustrator and writer Ron Miller, depicting how other planets in the solar system would appear from Earth, if they were as close as the Moon.


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Did the universe exist before the Big Bang? Maybe…

27 June 2024

What happened, or was there, before the Big Bang that is said to have brought the universe into being? Was there nothing, to which something came? It is the question of the ages.

In his recent documentary series, Universe, British physicist Brian Cox posits that the universe existed before the Big Bang. How long this pre Big Bang entity had been there, or its origins, remain unknown however. How fascinating these before-the-beginning sort of questions are.


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Extraterrestrials may arrive in 500 years, but not in flying saucers

30 April 2024

In the late 1960’s, former United States President Jimmy Carter, reported seeing an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO). Today unexplained objects, or phenomena, seen in the skies, are referred to as Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon (UAP). Carter, however, was not expecting to participate in any historic close encounter of the third kind:

While puzzled by the object and its origins, Carter himself later said that, while he had considered the object to be a UFO — on the grounds it was unexplained — his knowledge of physics had meant he had not believed himself to be witnessing an alien spacecraft.

Some people may be unhappy that Carter allowed physics to get in the way of a good story. Because wouldn’t it be great if we could whiz about the galaxy in a vessel the size of the average suburban house, which every other intelligence in the galactic neighbourhood seems capable of, except us.

House-size flying saucers defy the laws of physics, because, you know, their builders seemingly are able to defy the laws of physics. It would however be awesome to zap back and forth to say the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, in a house-size vessel that could travel (presumably/somehow) faster than the speed of light. At least I’m not breaking the laws of dreaming there.

But if close-to-light-speed interstellar travel, together with the possibly of extraterrestrials visiting Earth (from the far side of the Milky Way, no less) intrigues you, read this Twitter/X post, by American physicist Casey Handmer. Visitors from civilisations, from maybe fifty thousand light years across the galaxy, may be mere centuries away from reaching our solar system:

Let’s say that any civilization that can figure out interstellar travel can develop from slow to 99% of the speed of light in 500 years, and they’re coming from the other side of the galaxy — 50,000 years ago. By the time the light of their first (presumably highly energetic, fireworksy) relativistic travel reaches us, they’re already 99% of the way here – just 500 years to roll out the welcome mat.


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Albert Einstein, special relativity, and an afterlife: this is heavy

22 July 2023

planet and galaxy, image/montage by Lumina Obscura

Image courtesy of Lumina Obscura.

Is your dead grandmother… still alive? The answer is…

… yes…

… in a sense.

That’s if information in the cosmos is never destroyed, but rather… rearranged. In this case the information I refer to are the atoms, sub-atomic particles, and who knows what else, that make up everything in the universe, including us, and our predeceased family members.

Interaction with this information, which over eons diffuses into the cosmos after our deaths, may then be possible if cosmic consciousnesses, being ours — somehow — come into being one day, and are able to envelope the universe, and eventually encounter your late grandmother’s information.

This is the understanding I took away from this Big Think video featuring German theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, which I saw on Open Culture. Best you watch for yourself though, and see what you make of it, as matters of maths and physics are not my thing. Otherwise, some fodder for a little contemplative thinking this weekend, perhaps?


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How can nothing unreal exist in a not locally real universe?

10 October 2022

In addition to Annie Ernaux being named the Nobel Prize literature laureate , John Clauser, Alain Aspect, and Anton Zeilinger, received the Nobel for their contributions to physics this year. I studied physics in high-school for an ill-fated year, and struggled to make sense of any of it. Way too mathematical. And maybe way too weird.

All the more so, given the Nobel award winning work of Clauser, Aspect, and Zeilinger, effectively “overthrows reality as we know it.” This outcome spans the previous study of a whose-who of household names in the realm of physics, including John Stewart Bell, Boris Podolsky, Nathan Rosen, John von Neumann, and of course, Albert Einstein.

Quantum mechanics’ problem of nonlocal realism would languish in a complacent stupor for another three decades until being decisively shattered by Bell. From the start of his career, Bell was bothered by the quantum orthodoxy and sympathetic toward hidden variable theories. Inspiration struck him in 1952, when he learned of a viable nonlocal hidden-variable interpretation of quantum mechanics devised by fellow physicist David Bohm — something von Neumann had claimed was impossible. Bell mulled the ideas over for years, as a side project to his main job working as a particle physicist at CERN.