Saturday, April 19, 2014

10 Most Mysterious Things in the Universe

***There are so many incredible, fascinating, mysterious aspects to our cosmos that recent science breakthroughs have shed light unto. Some of these discoveries have been analyzed intensively for years, while other discoveries are still in their infancy. I want to make a list of my top 10 most amazing and intriguing discoveries of the cosmos, and I want to hear from readers if they would add to my list or change any orders. I simply find some of these discoveries unimaginably interesting and I want to share my thoughts. I will start with number 10 and every day or so post the next scientific discovery that is higher on my list. ***

10. Neutrinos

What is it?

The neutrino is by far the most fascinating and peculiar subatomic particle that exists. It is estimated that its mass is a millionth the mass of an electron. The neutrino contains no electric charge, so the only force that acts on it is the weak force. The existence of this particle was first hypothesized in 1930 by Wolfgang Pauli when he measured the energy that is released during beta decay. What he found was that the electrons emitted contained less energy than before the reaction, which of course violates the law of physics—no energy can be lost or gained. So what’s the explanation? Another particle is being released.

How are they created?

These mysterious particles are created at the cores of massive exploding stars. The gravity in the core of massive stars becomes so great that it collapses in on itself, releasing incredible amounts of energy. Scientists discovered that the energy of the light emitted from a collapsing star is not equivalent to the energy prior to explosion. Scientists concluded that there must be another particle being released from the star that isn’t being detected. This is what sparked the idea of the hidden particle, and in 1956, this particle was found!

How did we find it?

Well, it starts with knowing the characteristics of the neutrino. Because neutrinos have no charge, and they have almost no mass, these little subatomic particles almost never interact with matter. The only force that actually affects neutrinos is the weak force, which is why neutrinos are affected so minimally, if at all. These particles actually flow through every bit of matter that you have ever known. In fact, millions of neutrinos have passed through your body in the amount of time you’ve been reading this. Neutrinos are so small and interact so little with matter, that they can pass through millions and millions of miles of brick, steel, and concrete, as easily as it would pass through air. Incredible! The Super-Kamiokande Observatory was built in Japan half a mile under the Earth’s surface a few decades ago in an attempt to detect the neutrino. This observatory is a chamber of 50 thousand tons of distilled water, surrounded by thousands of sensitive light detectors. Other particles such as protons and electrons are unable to pass through the rocky matter of the earth. Neutrinos, however, have no difficulty passing through matter, so millions of them can easily reach this observatory chamber. Most of these neutrinos simply keep on going and pass through all of the water, lights, and ground, continuing on for thousands or even millions of miles. On very rare occasions, however, a neutrino collides with another particle. When this happens in the Super-Kamiokande Observatory, the collision creates a flash of light that lasts for a split second. The particle has been found! Ever since the first discovery of the neutrino, scientists have been detecting them ever so rarely, but sure enough, they can find this fascinating particle.

9. Speed of light


The speed of light may not seem so wondrous or intriguing as far as things in the universe go. But this simple constant is much more magnificent than it appears at first light. The speed of light is fastest speed currently known to the universe. It travels at approximately 186,000 miles per second. That means a light particle (photon) could circle the entire Earth about 7.5 times in one second. Light particles are also the only known particle in the universe that accelerates to its maximum speed instantaneously. Every other particle in the universe takes at least some time to speed up, but the instant a photon particle is generated, it excels outward from its source at the speed of 186,000 miles per second.

Now let’s get a little abstract…

Einstein’s theory of relativity proved that as any object begins to accelerate closer and closer to the speed of light, the weight of that object begins to increase exponentially. If any object is able to finally reach the speed of light (so far no such experiment has been successful), the mass of that object would be infinite. This is derived from Einstein’s famous equation E=mc² where E is energy, c is the constant of light, and m is the mass of an object. The energy required to accelerate an object to the speed of light is infinite, thus making the mass of the object infinite because c is a constant.

Let’s get a little more abstract…

Objects don’t only get heavier and heavier when they approach the speed of light, but time gets slower and slower as well. This is not just some theory as well, but a proven fact. Atomic clocks have been taken in space and been shown to have slowed down by fractions of a second due its tremendous speeds when orbiting the Earth. Obviously these speeds aren’t even close to the speed of light, but even getting a sliver closer to the speed of light can have noticeable effects. As objects move closer and closer to the speed of light, time gets closer and closer to standing still. In theory, if something traveled faster than the speed of light, it could essentially give the illusion of time travel.

Picture this: A man is sitting in a flying saucer and holding a wooden box. The flying saucer is flying directly toward you at a speed faster than the speed of light. If the man were to open the wooden box while traveling toward you faster than the speed of light, what would you observe?

Well, the light from when the box is still closed will begin flying through space at the constant of light speed. The man in the saucer begins moving faster than the speed of light however, so he in turn will be closer to you observing than the first photons that ejected from the beginning of the experiment. As the man opens the box the photons of light of that occurrence will immediately be ejected toward you at the constant of light speed, but it will reach you faster than when the experiment first started. Essentially, what will be observed is the time travel. You will observe the as originally being already open, and then moments later you will observe the man opening the box (the original photons finally reached you from the beginning of the experiment). This is perceived time travel! Now, obviously such a theory is impossible to test through experiment; however, the logic of the theory is almost irrefutable. I mean, thousands of the stars that we observe every night are completely gone, nonexistent, they blew up thousands of years ago. If high-speed space travel or teleportation were somehow possible, people could theoretically travel 2000 of light-years away from Earth in an instant, and then look back at it. What would be observed? The Earth as it was 2000 years ago. The light from all events on Earth 2000 years ago would finally have reached that point of 2000 light years away to which you traveled. Who knows, maybe you could observe Jesus walking the Earth. Or maybe not.

8. Gravity

It may seem simple on the surface, but gravity is quite a wondrous phenomenom of our universe. The idea that one ball of matter can have affects on another ball of matter without any physical contact with it is incredible. What’s even more astounding is that these affects occur through empty space over millions and millions of miles! So, how do we explain this idea that Isaac Newton called gravity?

Einstein first hypothesized that gravity is the result of matter warping space and time itself. The idea is that wherever matter particles exist, a sort of pocket is created in space that pulls the space around it towards that object. It’s a crazy thing to think about, but that’s the idea of gravity that is generally accepted by physicists. Space itself begins to warp and curve with the presence of matter—a revolutionary idea.

Picture it like this: imagine a bowling ball resting on a bed. The bed around the bowling ball is warped toward the bowling ball on a two-dimensional level (the flat plane of the bed’s surface). Now try and translate this idea to a 3-dimensional scale in space. Any amount of matter creates that pull as the bowling ball did, but in all directions of space.

7. The big bang

The event that set our universe into motion 13.8 billion years ago. It began all began at a point, when miraculously, space, physics, and time itself was born. Everything that we see and know to exist was all created in the fiery eruption of the big bang, at a point smaller than a single atom. Evidence continues to pile up supporting this Big Bang theory as the beginning of our universe.

Evidence one: Galaxies moving apart

All galaxies are moving away from each other. No matter which of the hundreds of billions of galaxies an astronomer chooses, the galaxy will always be moving away from our home of the Milky Way. Even more interesting, is that the speed at which these galaxies are moving away is always proportional to the distance away from Earth. The further the galaxy is away, the faster away it is moving. This incredible finding by Hubble led astronomers and physicists to ponder the reason for this phenomenon. Ideas and hypotheses were tossed around for years questioning why everything was moving away from each other. People eventually reached a consensus that all the matter must have been together at one point. The term Big Bang didn't emerge until Professor Fred Hoyle described the findings over a radio broadcast as being almost like a big bang. And thus, the birth of the Big Bang theory.

Evidence two: Background radiation

Most people know that when we are looking up at the night sky, we are looking into the past. If we see stars and galaxies 4000 light years away, we are looking 4000 years into the past. The farther and farther away the objects are we are looking at, the further back in time we are looking. As astronomers have scanned the night skies with the most complex, intricate, and precise telescopes, no galaxy over roughly 13.7-13.8 billion years old. Why is this? Because of a background radiation, an opaque radiation wall in a sense. It is a wall of radiation so hot and so fiery that no atoms are able to form or fuse, resulting in this opaque radiation wall. What’s amazing is that this wall was hypothesized about by Einstein??? But he believed that no one would be able to observe (he underestimated future astronomer observers as he frequently did). The common belief is that in the split seconds following the big bang, atoms and molecules were unable to exist because of the extreme heat. The background radiation was actually detected by accident, when a constant hissing and static was detected from ******* ********* telescopes. Wires were tightened, screws were rebolted but the same static remained. This is the same static between radio stations and found on old TV’s when stations went off air. This background radiation could not be worked around.

Evidence 3: Abundance of Elements

Hydrogen was the first element to exist in the universe at its origins. It was the only element and type of atoms in existence until the intense temperature in the cores of stars allowed for the hydrogen to fuse into heavier elements such as helium. The more massive and hotter the star, the heavier the elements that could be created by it. Scientists have been able to measure the different types and amounts of elements in the universe by looking back in time at galaxies and nebulae millions o flight years away. The proportions of hydrogen, helium, carbon, and all other elements were estimated based on the theory of the big bang. Once observational tools were accurate enough to actually measure the abundance of certain elements in the universe, scientists found that their estimates were precisely what they observed in the cosmos!

Evidence 4: Detected Gravity Waves

Less than a couple months ago, the leader researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, John Kovac, announced a tremendous discovery of indirectly detected gravitational waves. These gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein in the early 20th century but he again underestimated the observational capabilities of modern scientists. The discovery pointed to a swirling distortion of the light radiation that was detected by BICEP researchers when observing the microwave background radiation. This distortion is believed to only be able to form with the existence of gravitational waves that could only have been formed by inflation during the Big Bang—the indirect proof. Scientists continue to probe the discovery and search for other explanations for this observation, but if this is proven to be true, it is overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang Theory’s legitimacy.

So the two questions that arise from the Big Bang Theory even if it is 100% proven to be true are these: how could the Big Bang happen and why did the Big Bang happen? How is it that all of the vastness of the entire cosmos began from nothing, at a single point smaller than an atom. If science one day answers the how question of how the universe came about (which many astrophysicists such as Lawrence Krauss have devoted their entire lives to discovering), the question of why will still remain. Regardless of if we understand the physical and quantum laws of universe creation, the question of for what purpose was it created remains. This is where many will still turn to religion and God claiming that there is a divine purpose to all of existence, which very well may be true. For me, the evidence of a divine creator is essentially nonexistent.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Science and Religion are Incompatible

One thing that bothers me about theologians is when they argue that religion and science are compatible. This belief is simply untrue, as are many beliefs of scholarly theologians.
Here are a couple simple reasons why:
1. The universe is 17.7+ billion years old, thus the probability of a transcendent revelation occurring within the last 10,000 years, let alone 2000 years as Christian faiths proclaim, is tremendously unlikely to put it lightly.

2. We live on one planet orbiting a single star. This one star is only one among hundreds of billions in the Milky Way galaxy alone  And this galaxy is one in a universe of billions more galaxies just as massive as our own. 
               Seems a little self-centered of people to claim we understand the origins of all that we know when we are only a speck on the canvass of existence.  

3. There is not a SINGLE shred of evidence for a god of any sort. There have been thousands of various gods worshiped by humans and thousands of different religions. By pure probability, the chance that any one religion knows or even comes close to true understanding of a metaphysical conscious entity is almost zero. 
               So many religious people today discredit all of these other gods but believe in their own and claim this is reasonable, but it simply is not. Religions evolve and change as society and culture changes. This is why a book such as the Bible many have been considered to be the perfect truth or moral word 2000 years ago, but today numerous parts of it are considered barbaric and evil. Society develops its own set of morals and values based on maximizing the well-being and happiness of as many people as possible. That is after all, the ultimate goal.