Showing all posts tagged: science

To go where no one has gone before, the limit of the universe

22 March 2024

German animation and design studio Kurzgesagt have been producing excellent informative and educational videos for what seems like half the lifespan of the universe. Let’s hope Peak-Kurzgesagt is a situation that never comes to pass.

Their latest video, the Paradox of an Infinite Universe, covers some heady ground; the concept of a physical edge, or boundary, to the universe. If we could somehow reach such a region, could we press our hand against it, as we can a garden wall? Hmm…

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Noctalgia: when you miss seeing the light polluted night sky

25 September 2023

Noctalgia is the recently minted neologism for the phenomenon of missing dark skies at night. Noctalgia is something astronomers could tell you about. Dark, light pollution free, skies are essential for their work, but they’re not so commonplace anymore. And here we have a dilemma.

The source of this light pollution is the night lighting that keeps us safe and secure. But light pollution does not only originate from the surface of the planet. The growing number of satellites in Earth orbit, of which we likewise greatly depend, is also adding to the problem for astronomers:

More recently, the explosive growth in satellite communication “constellations,” like SpaceX’s Starlink system, has put orders of magnitude more satellites into orbit than even a decade ago, with even more on the way. Those satellites don’t just spoil deep-space astronomical observations when they cross a telescope’s field of view; they also scatter and reflect sunlight from their solar arrays. The abundance of satellites is causing the overall brightness of the sky to increase all around the globe.

Maybe noctalgia can be added to the list of contender words when dictionaries next update their lexicons, if that hasn’t already happened.

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The solar system has another planet, but where is it hiding?

20 September 2023

Astronomers are convinced the solar system hosts another planet, often dubbed Planet Nine, or Planet X, but are unable to agree on its size and mass, nor its location.

A few years ago speculation was rife a Neptune size body was orbiting the Sun well beyond Pluto, taking between ten to twenty thousand years to make a circuit. While mathematical evidence suggested the existence of the planet, observations turned up nothing.

Now astronomers think a planet similar in size to Earth may be lurking in the far reaches of the solar system, though nowhere as far out as the supposed Neptune size body:

According to planetary scientists Patryk Sofia Lykawka of Kindai University in Japan and Takashi Ito of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, this world, frozen and dark so far from the Sun, would be no greater than 3 times the mass of Earth, and no farther than 500 astronomical units from the Sun.

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Reality is an illusion, we are the dream of a dead universe

14 September 2023

The latest Kurzgesagt video may — like a number of their recent offerings — still have an end of days theme, but at least the subject matter is a little more fanciful. Even if we’re talking about the eventual heat death of the universe, or as Kurzgesagt posits, the already happened heat death of the universe.

Bizarre right? But our (apparent) existence may in fact be a random manifestation of a dark, cold, universe. The night sky, the awesome images of the James Webb Space Telescope, and everything else that we seem to perceive and experience, is but a figment of our imagination. Life, the universe, and everything. It might as well be the name of science fiction book.

I guess then it was a waste of time booking a table at the restaurant at the end of the universe, being the title of late British author Douglas Adams’ 1980 novel. It would seem that event’s been and gone.

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How a nuclear war will start according to Kurzgesagt

26 August 2023

It’s alarming how close the world has come to nuclear conflict in the past, and on several occasions leaders with nuclear arsenals at their disposal have had their finger poised on the proverbial button. In just about every instance though, the threat of a nuclear exchange has been the result of a misunderstanding or miscommunication between nuclear armed nations.

But if one nuclear armed nation — for whatever reason — launches a strike on another, the target country has mere minutes to respond, as Kurzgesagt eloquently illustrates, in their latest video, How A Nuclear War Will Start. Doom and gloom sells I know, but Kurzgesagt have been on quite the gloomy doom-roll for a while now.

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You and the Universe, a new book by Stephen Hawking for children

8 August 2023

A children’s book titled You and the Universe, written by late British physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, will be published in March 2024:

The new book is based upon a 2018 partnership Hawking’s family had with the European Space Agency, along with the Greek composer Vangelis (“Blade Runner”, “Chariots of Fire”, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”.) The message used words adapted from Hawking’s book for adults, “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” (Bantam, 2018), set to music by Vangelis.

The book is co-written by Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, and illustrated by Li Xin. You and the Universe asks readers to imagine themselves as time travellers heading towards the future, and to work together to ensure the future will be a place free of the ravages of climate change.

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The workings of the universe are my spirit animal

29 July 2023

The best way to understand the universe — to whatever extent that is possible — may be to see the cosmos as an animal. A fascinating, yet somewhat unpredictable animal, says Andrew Pontzen, a professor of cosmology at University College London, writing for The Guardian:

It once seemed that, for all its immensity, the cosmos could be understood through the application of a small number of rigid physical laws. Newton encapsulated this idea, showing how apples falling from trees and planetary orbits around our sun arise from the same force, gravity.

J. B. S. Haldane, a Scottish mathematical biologist, said it best, in an essay he wrote almost one-hundred years ago, in 1927, titled Possible Worlds: “Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” Words of wisdom, them.

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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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Kurzgesagt: the next pandemic could be made at home, scary hey?

4 July 2023

Advances in biotechnology are being made in leaps and bounds. On one hand what is being learnt is making the world safer, but on the other, there is a downside. While cures for deadly diseases are being developed, even nastier pathogens are being created at the same time. Or could be, as Kurzgesagt explains:

We are adding knowledge at unprecedented rates, while things get ever faster and cheaper to do. This speed means we can expect even more wonderful things for humanity. Lifesaving treatments, miracle crops and solutions to problems we can’t even imagine right now. But unfortunately progress cuts both ways. What can be used for good, can also be used for bad, by accident or on purpose. For all the good biotech will do for us, in the near future it also could easily kill many millions of people, in the worst case hundreds of millions. Worse than any nuclear bomb.

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Space-time being rippled by waves from supermassive black holes

29 June 2023

Scientists think low-frequency gravitational waves generated by super-massive black holes found at the centres of some galaxies may be sending ripples through the fabric of space-time. While astronomers still aren’t one-hundred percent sure these waves exist, they would help in the study of super-massive black holes, if they did.

The super-massive black hole, Sagittarius A — also known as Sag A — at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, may not be a generator of these gravitational waves though. At a mere four point three million times the mass of the Sun, it’s considered to be a relatively small, er, super-massive black hole.

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