Intro to External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP)

Future Engine

External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP)  is something that’s been discussed for some time. In fact, it was originally proposed by Stanislaw Ulam way back in 1947. Unfortunately the public perception of atomic technology as well as pieces of otherwise well meaning legislation have called into question the feasibility of spacecraft that operate using this advanced principle. Read More →

Let’s Explore Quantum Teleportation

quantum teleportation2

Quantum teleportation is perhaps the closest that modern technology has come to developing a sort of teleporter for transmitting physical objects across distances without the use of some physical method of moving them. Quantum teleportation involves transmitting the exact state that an atom or photon exists in, and then using this data at a different site to reassemble it. This quantum information cannot travel faster than the speed of light, since it depends on classical communication. Read More →

Photosynthesis Simulated on the Quantum Level

Dipole-mediated energy transport of Rydberg-excitations (glowing balls) in an atomic sea – artist impression. Picture credits: S. Whitlock / G. Günter

Dipole-mediated energy transport of Rydberg-excitations (glowing balls) in an atomic sea – artist impression. Picture credits: S. Whitlock / G. Günter

Physicists discover new properties of energy transport in experiments on “atomic giants”

By realizing an artificial quantum system, physicists at Heidelberg University have simulated key processes of photosynthesis on a quantum level with high spatial and temporal resolution. In their experiment with Rydberg atoms the team of Prof. Dr. Matthias Weidemüller and Dr. Shannon Whitlock discovered new properties of energy transport. Read More →

What White Dwarfs Can Tell Us About the Universe

Birth of a white dwarf (bright spot at the center) in the Dumbbell Nebula./ Credit: Telescopio Joan Oro - Observatori Astronomic del Montsec

Birth of a white dwarf (bright spot at the center) in the Dumbbell Nebula./ Credit: Telescopio Joan Oro – Observatori Astronomic del Montsec

Researchers from Europe and the U.S. have ruled out a multitude of possible parameters for dark photons – a type of dark matter and energy – with the help of white dwarfs. In some aspects, the shining of these dying stars gives more information on dark forces than is provided by earth-based laboratories. The journal ‘Physical Review D’ has published the study [citation below]. Read More →

The World’s Most Powerful Terahertz Quantum Cascade Laser

QCL Bild_1

Christoph Deutsch, Martin Brandstetter and Michael Krall in the cleanroom at TU Vienna.

Whether used in diagnostic imaging, analysis of unknown substances or ultrafast communication – terahertz radiation sources are becoming more and more important. A recent Vienna University of Technology breakthrough has been made in this important area [Citations below]. Terahertz waves are invisible, but incredibly useful; they can penetrate many materials which are opaque to visible light and they are perfect for detecting a variety of molecules. Read More →

How Modern Physics Resonates with Ancient Mysticism

Modern Physics

Modern science has always been shadowed by an underlying paradox. Its methods have no basis upon which to define consciousness itself, and yet they are dependent upon human consciousness to provide them with all of the “laws” that they work within the context of. In other words, the scientific method can only assert that various things seem to be true insofar as our own perception goes. This is why new findings are constantly replacing old “truths” in its search for objective certainty. It cannot grapple with what sensory perception actually is (outside of the physical organs that perform it), and yet it must rely upon the evidence provided by the five senses as its only verification of truth. Read More →

Adding Another Dimension to Computer Simulations

Computer Simulations

Four-dimensional space is a difficult concept but this idea is driving a new revolution in programming today. Individuals familiar with August Ferdinand Möbius’ research know that an additional dimension allows a three-dimensional form to be rotated over on top of its mirror image. This gives us the so-called Möbius strip. While computer algorithms that really simulate scalable four-dimensional space are still in their infancy, they’re already making a big splash. Read More →

Black Holes as Garbage Dumps

Some commentaries on black holes focus on their form being similar to the initial state of the universe. Since electromagnetic radiation can’t even escape their gravitational pull, John Wheeler decided to apply the name black hole to these objects in 1969. According to some studies, they might very well account for the majority of occupied space.

Assuming that they exist, there might be other uses for them. Black holes are remarkably common, in one manner of thinking. Nothing could escape them, since it’s not possible to exceed the speed of light. Faster than light travel may be theoretically possible by certain means, but nothing could easily get out of a black hole.

That’s why some people have theorized that future societies could use them to dispose of trash. While it might sound absolutely ridiculous, black holes could be the ultimate recycling facilities. Any matter inserted into the event horizon would be turned into some sort of energy at a distant point in the universe.

Disposing of trash this way could also be the ultimate example of mankind’s self-indulgence. After all, no one would ever bother to find out where the matter stream ends up. Humanity could be dumping its trash everywhere in the universe.

Image Credit: StarCraft II

Understanding Black Holes – The Basics


Black holes are frequently mentioned as a sort of metaphor. In reality, black holes are generally understood to be large, empty voids in space where light cannot escape. It’s almost as if objects and energy are sucked into them. Though this is the basic premise behind black holes, they are much more complex objects that can tell us a number of facts about our universe and how it began.

Definition of Black Holes

Black holes are the last evolutionary stage in the lives of enormous stars that were once 10 to 15 times the size of our own sun. At the end of their lives, they may explode in a gigantic “supernova” event that scatters matter, but leaves behind a cold remnant of the star that collapses in on itself. This is the budding black hole that begins to suck in matter and light. However, light and matter must pass so close to black hole so that they cannot escape. This point is called the “event horizon.”

The Study of Black Holes

Black holes have been theorized since the late 1700’s. Einstein’s theories also predicted the existence of black holes. However, it wasn’t until 1967 that physicist John Wheeler began referring to these phenomena as “black holes.” Though no one has ever seen one, these black holes gave way to much scientific study in recent decades.

What Black Holes Tell Us

The study of black holes has demonstrated how the universe can hide much of its matter. This fact helps to account for all the missing matter that falls outside the mathematical computations about the universe. Black holes not only probably existed when our galaxy was formed, but also aided in the galaxy’s formation. The study of black holes also suggests that all matter that exists can become a black hole if compressed to zero volume and thus, infinite density.

Facts About Black Holes

  • At the center of each black hole is a point where the laws of physics break down and space-time cease to exist.  This point is called a “singularity.”
  • Black holes vary in size depending on the size of the matter within it. No one has actually seen a black hole because light does not escape from a black hole. However, the dust and gas clouds that swirl around black holes emit radiation that can be detected.
  • Black holes can suck up other black holes when they are in close proximity to each other, usually with the larger ones devouring smaller ones. Black holes can also circle each other in a swirling motion.
  • As black holes age, they gain more mass because they gain more matter over time. Black holes will eventually disintegrate over trillions of years.
  • The nearest black hole in 1,600 light years away. It is called V4641 Sgr and is a rare type of black hole called a micro quasar. This black hole is located in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way.
  • Black holes have no temperature, but objects about to enter the black hole are heated to millions of degrees before they disappear. They also emit x-rays.
  • Black holes do not actually suck things into them. The objects simply fall into the black hole and disappear due to the dense gravity of the hole.
  • Black holes are the simplest objects in the universe and can be described completely by their mass, spin rate, and electrical charge.

Of course all of this could change tomorrow if someone were to somehow disprove the theories behind black holes. Many people debate whether they even exist or not however scientific research in recent years has generally reinforced their existence and role within the universe.

Image Credit: XMM-Newton/ESA/NASA

Confronting the Unknown

I try my best to keep a close eye on developments within science and technology to share on here (and for school/work purposes as well). For instance, I closely follow the current debate regarding the legitimacy of climate change happening within the U.S. The current debate over the legality or morality of gay/lesbian marriage is another one that fascinates me. Theories I’ve researched and written about regarding the technological singularity and human evolution each have proponents and opponents.

What causes seemingly rational individuals to ignore actual facts or scientific proof? What might cause some individuals to hide behind their religious beliefs or other belief system to form an opinion on something? Conversely, what might cause individuals to simply form an opinion simply because it “feels right”?

I’ve written quite a bit on the probable existence of intelligent life beyond our own and even explored UFO phenomena and alien abduction accounts. Naturally I think quite a bit about the future of humanity as well (I’m dedicating my life to this in fact), and I often worry that perhaps we’re regressing at the intellectual level in spite of the many wonderful technological and scientific advances occurring all around us. When exploring issues such as climate change (or any other controversial issue for that matter), I try to look past the banter and determine what exactly may be causing individuals to choose one side over another. Is it a lack of education? Perhaps their religious beliefs are influencing their thought processes one way or another? I believe that the answer most often lies within a fear of the unknown. Granted while these other things mentioned may influence our beliefs to an extent, I propose that when one delves down to the true heart of the matter, our fear of the unknown is the true culprit. Today’s post explores this hypothesis further.

Introduction
Each of us exists at the crossroads between darkness and light, knowledge and the unknown, existence and non-existence. At a conscious level, we primarily remember only a fraction of our own experiences and dreams. We cannot even trust the blood flowing in our veins and we know less about the after-life that we are heading towards than about the pre-birth from which we first appeared in the world. In our futile flight from darkness we often fall back on erotic love, of which the instinctive goal is most often to fight the unknown with new birth. Even in the short moment of an orgasm lurks the dark possibility of betrayal.

Pre-historic Man and the Fear of the Unknown
In Pre-historic times, when man did not yet understand the wonder of birth, it was attributed to female magic. In those days, the rituals and festivals attributed to a mysterious and occult female deity was connected to the fear of being destroyed by an unpredictable nature. Fear of the unknown was the underlying motive for rituals and sacrifices marking the end of winter and the beginning of summer. Mid-winter rituals that would in Christian times become the very Christmas celebrations of today were intended to satisfy the spirits of the ancestors. People prayed to the ancient earth goddess presiding over life, death, prosperity, disaster and jealously. They pleaded to the earth goddess, responsible for hiding the future of mankind under a veil of the unknown, to reveal the more merciful side of her nature to them. These pre-historical rituals along with sculptures, rock drawings, words, songs, fairy tales, and customs each would plan an influential role in the evolution of modern civilizations and religions in the years ahead.

Ancient Philosophers Confronting the Unknown
The ancient Greeks confronted the fear of the unknown through rational reasoning long before their “barbarian” neighbors came along. The philosophy that underlies the history of knowledge and the birth of Western Civilization is in reality based upon man’s early confrontation with, fear of, and wonder at the unknown.

The Greek Philosopher Thales, who lived in 624-546 B.C.E., was the first to discuss the secrets of the origin of the cosmos. Thales regarded water as the origin of all things and believed that everything was born out of the ocean. According to Thales, everything must have moved from water into some other form, which is why he viewed movement as the soul of all things (Dreyer 27, 28).

Xenophanes was the first to state that the human soul is not capable of obtaining complete knowledge (Dreyer 38).

Medieval Man and the Fear of the Unknown
It was widely believed during medieval times that Christ would return to Earth ten centuries after his departure, that all humans would be judged, and that each person would consequently go to either heaven or hell. During medieval times the fear of the unknown was manifested in an unprecedented fear of God, by which philosophy, art, science, religion, politics, law, and social life were regulated. People who worshipped foreign gods were subjected to the wrath of the Christian doctrine, whose word was the only law, and to which all human behavior was expected to conform.

While the medieval Roman Catholic Church would not tolerate any scientific discoveries contradicting the Christian doctrine, it ironically paved the way for scientific discoveries that took place during the Renaissance and later periods. By forcing the Western mind into obeying a single law, the scientific method that is based upon the reduction of things to a single principle, was eventually created. The emphasis on the inner life also trained mankind in the practice of abstract thought that would form a vital part of scientific thought from the Renaissance onward (Hoffding 3).

Scientists Confronting the Unknown during the Renaissance and Enlightenment
While Renaissance scientists confronting an unknown universe were still restricted by the Church, scientists believed during the Age of Enlightenment (or Age of Reason) that human reasoning could save mankind from fear of the unknown.

Two very important Renaissance scientists and philosophers were Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) who discovered that the earth revolves around the sun (Höffding 173), and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) who invented the telescope and scientific method (Höffding 103). Both were severely restricted by the Roman Catholic Church during their lifetimes.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727), arguably one of the most important scientists of all times, discovered the workings of the law of gravitation throughout the known universe (Höffding 407).

Scientists Rediscover the Strangeness and Unpredictability of the Unknown
The Law of Relativity discovered by Albert Einstein (1879-1955) posed serious challenges to the mechanical Newtonian world-view. According to the Special Law of Relativity, weight and time are changed by motion. Additionally, the General Law of Relativity states that the movement of starlight is influenced by gravitation. Einstein’s work would later lead to research of black holes and many other areas of astronomy/physics (Henbest 147).

Newtonian physics were also radically challenged by discoveries at the sub-atomic level by Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976). Heisenberg believed that the less a researcher knows about the momentum of a particle, the more he/she knows about its position, and vice versa (Hilgevoord 1).

21st century scientist Stephen Hawking (1942-) is trying to reconcile quantum physics with the rules of gravity and relativity dominating the macro-universe. Ultimately, his conclusions play havoc with the singularity of Newtonian physics by stating that the universe was created in many different ways and that many different universes (multiverses) may exist. To be able to shed light on why our specific universe is the way it is, a theory of wave functions at the sub-atomic level will be required (Highfield 1).

Conclusion
After more that five thousand years of research and scientific discovery, we are still confronted with universes that can’t be viewed and were created in ways that can’t be imagined. This conclusion is a subtle reminder that despite phenomenal scientific discoveries thus far, the unknown is still as impenetrable as ever.

Being confronted with a fear of the unknown is an integral part of the human condition at all times. We can either allow ourselves to be paralyzed by that fear, or we can react to it by bringing our own individual set of religious, philosophical, scientific, or creative contributions to life for the benefit of humanity. Perhaps in the process we will discover that elusive part of the unknown potential that lies hidden within each of us, while simultaneously confronting our fear of the unknown in our own individualistic way.

Reference:

  • Dreyer, P.S. Die Wysbegeerte van die Grieke:  Hollandsch Afrikaansche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1975
  • Henbest, N. The Exploding Universe: Marshall Cavendish, 1979
  • Highfield, R. “Stephen Hawking’s Explosive new Theory”: Telegraph.co.uk, 2008. Web
  • Hilgevoord, J.  “The Uncertainty Principle”: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. First published 8 October 2001, revised 3 July 2006. Web
  • Höffding, H.  A History of Modern Philosophy, Dover Publications, 1955
  • Lehane, B. The Enchanted World, Time-Life Books, Amsterdam, 1986