Sunday, November 15, 2015

A little on Star Trech

Knowledge (or whatever word you feel I should use instead if was can agree such a word possible) has what could be considered an ironically strange following in our reality. From the extremely general topics of what is real, how to define fundamental words and how other words can extrapolate from there (both often labeled topics of Philosophy), to the application of critical thinking, testing and/or other evidence based methods of consideration, and lastly to grand hypothesis built more and more on theory. The last of which is the realm of science fiction, and Star Trek. This week's request stems from that last of that list. After watching the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, I've been asked to explain the theory and plot relevance of at least two theoretical technologies from said movie. Unfortunately I realized a little late that I had written a significant portion of this pretty dryly for my tastes, but let me know if you wind up enjoying it anyway. I'd update it, but I'm on a tight schedule.

The obligatory mention (by Professor's ruling) is the technology of warp drives. There's ironically a lot to say about this. For those who don't know, a Warp drive is a theoretical device that would bend space itself that in order to allow a space-ship to move a significant coefficient of light-years in a very short amount of time. The device is also sometimes considered synonymously with Faster-than-Light (F.T.L.) drives. It's hard to explain the distinction but FTL drives are called such becuase they would theoretically be "THE" way to ever move faster than the giver of occipital perception (light). The reason I feel the need to spruce that sentence up is because FTL drives are ironically so openly theorized that in a lot of space-media they're assumed before they are even hinted necessary. The truth is, they are theoretically a requirement for the Star Trek movie, or arguably any inter-stellar movie.

Ok, first, inter-stellar isn't meant here as an adjective of greatness, but of spatial scope. The word inter-stellar refers here to being inclusive of more than one solar-system. The Star-Trek movie, and a majority of others, has a number of events where people must venture to far-away planets such as "Vulcan". The problem with such an obstacle is that travel between planets isn't even just a case of having a super powerful engine. The list of problems with space travel is daunting even before we look at the share scale of travel done. Most maps make it look as if simply by reaching space we've pretty much gained the power to travel at least our solar system. The truth is, after decades of directly concentrated research and planning, the farthest our species has gotten has been the moon. In the scale of merely our solar system where mercury is about one leg's distance away from the sun, the moon and earth are indistinguishable, and Jupiter looks figuratively ant-like. The fastest thing we know of is light, and light takes years to travel between us and the closest known stars (other than the sun). That's just the start of the problem too. The sheer obstacles in space, and some extrapolations of quantum theory make it seem pretty unlikely for any movie paced space travel to be possible (unless said travel involved cryo-sleep and answered several other questions). So effectively, the only way we've thought of that would allow us to get to other planets without taking decades or far more to do so, would be to bend space "and time" so that we can skip over a bunch of space.

--Long story short, it's science fiction theory about accomplishing something believed by special brainy people to be impossible.  Traveling as fast as they tried to say they would in star trek would be a practically unbelievable feat. So, in order to have their characters do it in the movie, they needed to have special technology. Since their plot involved the fate of entire planets and time travel, it seems extremely practical that traveling that distance would be necessary, and thus warp drives were important. Technically you could try and reduce the scale of the movie and have an equivalent plot, but it probably wouldn't be as cool, and talking about that likely just decreased my points with someone important.

Surprisingly, the rest of the futuristic technologies that would  normally play into a Star Trek film. The only technologies present that I'm sure we don't have but were present in the movie would probably be the teleporter pads and "red matter" manipulators. The former of those two is fairly well understood, but I was depressively unsurprised to find most of my physics class not understanding the purpose of the red matter. First and foremost, there is no substance I've been told about in any physics class that was called "red matter". The red matter was effectively plot sink which allowed the time travel. It was likely inspired by black holes, the tachyon theory, antimatter, the need for a time following change time line. The Star Trek reboot was made at a time when Star Trek already had an inherent extreme following. The authors wanted to allow a retelling of the story, that allowed the previous timeline to still be true. To do so, they allowed their technological extrapolation theories to extend to the realm of theoretical substances. One major theoretical substance we know of is antimatter. Antimatter is said to explode on contact with normal matter, and be made of particles with totally different properties than our own. The reason for the name "red matter" was probably to express a plausible identity of a substance with properties totally unlike known matter or antimatter. The color red was probably just used to get people to sympathize with its name more.... because it was red. What properties does this special thing have? Well time travel of course! In order to attached a long detailed timeline to the start of its reboot, they used this totally different substance to allow something from the end of the old timeline (I think actually a few centuries beyond the end of the old timeline, but don't quote me) to the beginning of the new one. This strange property being tied to a totally different substance has been pre-established by the tachyon theory. The tachyon theory is that there is a quantum particle that goes back in time because it's faster than the faster observable thing that fits mathematical models and experiments (light). By allowing the Red Matter to be powerful enough to create a time portal with the growth potential of a black hole, It also theoretically had the ability to send mass elsewhere extremely fast.

In short, "Red Matter" allowed the movie to avoid changing the overall timeline of the plot beyond the movie, and yet still allow the movie to occur at the start of the original timeline. It also allowed for the destruction of a world which is one extreme motivation for revenge and conflict. The plot was essentially a story about the crossing paths of timelines and such a revenge story, so the Red Matter was extremely necessary.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I see your unrealistic Antman, and raise you an Atom.

One of this week's Dr. Fragile request was to explain the science of extreme sizes (short or small) of monsters. The movie industry, by whatever name you give it, loves to excite people with extremes. One common extreme is that of size. The famous giant lizard of Japan, Godzilla, is known for towering over buildings and being able to destroy them by simple movement. Conversely the densifying suit armed Antman is known for being extremely small but extremely great in a fight. However, that's not entirely realistic.

Unlike Antman, who at least believes in the conservation of mass (and tries to use it to turn tiny punches into bullet-like thrusts), Atom apparently can change his weight with his belt. Assuming for argument's sake that this is true (and wouldn't involve splattering either a clone of yourself or a bloody mess of your organs behind) when Atom is the size of an Ant, he would have a mass of about "0.03 grams" (3 centigrams). With that little mass, the force caused by a sneeze would literally be enough to destroy the human body with excessive acceleration.

Maintaining the assumption that Atom can lose weight with his tights-bound shrink-fit belt, he'd also be really fast... but really hungry. You see, leg's don't make us move just because of friction and putting one leg in front of the other--well, ok they do, but it can be expressed as velocity of the leg's arching between steps. We stay on something because friction keeps us there, but if I'm understanding the froude number correctly, we move because our legs move us through space and angle are mass causing a rotation of are body that's pivoted indirectly with the leg holding us down. However, the ratio of the centripetal acceleration of that movement over gravitational acceleration stays the same regardless of mass (which actually cancels out when dividing the forces). What would change for shrunken and less-massive Atom would be the length of the legs he's rotating with. His velocity would be far less impaired by the radius of the arch traveled, and he'd be much faster. However, because of Atom's new found speed, he'd also be expending a lot of chemical energy to make kinetic energy, and even lose kinetic energy to thermal energy as he moves through the medium of air. The result would be a ton of lost ATP (assuming ATP would still work at his size) in order to maintain movement. To make up for that lost ATP, he'd have to regain it.... a lot. Ever wonder why there's a life-form called a sugar ant?

Another ironically under-addressed effect of being extremely small is that communication becomes extremely warped. One version of DC comic's Atom (a super hero able to shrink to incredible sizes and admittedly break physics even by his method of doing so in some cases) is able to naturally communicate with with friend and foe regardless of his size. In fact, a lot of disparate sizes media has big and small people talking together. Normally it's just a funny little case of the small person in a funny but understandable voice, but the change that should exist in such cases is far more than media suggests. Quoting from my source, "Typical male voices have frequencies of about 85-180Hz, but a shrunk man [the size of an ant] would talk at higher frequencies of 12-25kHz." The later value is so extreme that part of it extends actually beyond what human ears can perceive. Even if an ant sized person were noticed, hearing what they say and understanding would be virtually impossible without special machinery.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Global Warming up


This week's request bothered me quite a bit. Not because I want to stay out of the discussion, but because I felt I was very ill-prepared to immediately prepare a presentation on such an important topic. This week, Dr. Fragile's Physics in film class was supposed to prepare blog posts in the form of data presenting persuasive research papers regarding Global Warming. The reason this was troublesome for me is that I am an environmentalist, and yet even I haven't had as much focus on Global Warming in recent years. I, like many others, got lost in the news reports and didn't really look into the facts until now. Bury that in with a heaping load of college projects, transition issues, and demanding events, and I really wasn't able to give this project the attention it deserved. That said, here is what I do have. Please take it with some understanding, and realize more is to come.

There's an unfortunate phrase I often here during conversations about the environment. I'll be asking about their views on environmentalism or expressing my passion for it, and they'll say "I think we're past the point of no return."

The reallity of the situation is that the environmentalist movement has had a much better, yet much more important impact than most people think. We have several agencies of federal scale working against environmental dangers. I could sit here an list the names, but the true value, is the change they've made. For example, the very idea that we're past a point of no return is fairly flawed considering we're already improving. To put this idea in perspective, consider the following two charts cited directly from the environmental protection agency website.






These graphs are drawn from an open access web page that uses data calculated through federally accepted methods in order to plot the average amount of greenhouses gases. These methods include collecting data from hundreds of sources that can be found across the states.

  As is described numerically on the right side of the webpage, these graphics represent roughly a 150% change in the average change of greenhouse gases in the environment. As a nation we were increasing air pollution at a rate that (although less understandable here) alarmed an entire movement of thinkers. Since the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency and several other environmentalist agencies and focuses on global warming, the primary gases have been significantly countered.

So why is global warming still a problem? Well there are a number of reason. For one, the reason we've been able to reduce green house gases overall has been due to the work of environmentalist agencies to make industry, policy, other domains more sustainable and clean. As the 3rd chart shows, we were on an incline during the early years of the EPA's life span, and have been able to begin turning around during the last couple decades. Secondly, the dangers posed by global warming aren't over.

As the following graphic and links show and explain, weather systems haven't sufficiently stabilized.


(Source: http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-blogs/climatechange/are-el-nino-years-getting-warm/52604458 )
The source of this graph does a fairly better job explaining its full meaning and related details. The interesting detail here is that, even though the EPA has been able to slowly change the rate of greenhouse gass emissions, the globe does seem to be literally warming more and more without end. While minor reactions seem to calm El Nino periods for a time, the trend of heat has not been significantly hindered. This is due in part to the fact that we actually still have a majority of the greenhouse gases still sitting in the reservoir we all call air. Due to this fact, the green-house effect is still in progress around us-- we've just begun tearing down the walls.

Effects like this are part of a much bigger, yet much more progressive issue than I've allowed myself to express in this blog report. Research is being done around the world on how to counteract progressive problems, and the potential to make the culture of the human species truly sustainable is simply grand. Imagine being able to rely on the industries around you  to make life better without drawing on the lives of others. That is the true mission of Global Warming fighters and the environmentalist movement in general. Our doors don't stop at hindering the overall danger, but stretch to finding ways to support societies so large and complex that they've built virtual cities and scattered physical gatherings within weeks. While I haven't done my duty in showing why the movement is important, the reasons are ever expansive. Feel free to leave a comment asking for more information and I will gladly respond.