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You gotta be curious

What physics phenomenon do Jimi Hendrix and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster have in common?

We'll do a lab on this !


How does the physics used

by a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion

aircraft to monitor Soviet submarines  during the Cold War relate to calculating the age of the universe?











. . . and why are

"warp drive", "hyperdrive"

and the like a staple of

science fiction ?


It has to do with the physical impossibility

of exceeding the speed of light ("c"). 


The arithmetic that explains this is actually

pretty simple once you understand the

underlying concept!

Here are results from a class assignment several semesters back.

The assignment was to come up with an "Andy Rooney" question

("Didja ever wonder...?") 

Interesting questions, and I'm finally getting around to taking some stabs at 'em.


23 September 2011

- The short answer is "all of em," according to widely held opinion. That said, the answer is a bit misleading because of the way the question is framed. A better way to start on this road would be to examine the now-famous "Drake Equation" (named after astronomer Frank Drake) which attempts to quantify the number of planetary systems within the Milky Way Galaxy that could potentially harbor intelligent life.


- Big Al (as in "Albert Einstein") says "No." Nearly a century's worth of experimental evidence supports this. BU-U-U-T NOW . . . we got a wrinkle on that one. Go to the "Geekin Out" page for more info.


- On one hand, the answer could be a pretty straightforward "yes,"  insofar as the radio waves will indeed arrive at the locations specified in the question. The practical problem is something called the "inverse square law" which, in a nutshell, tells us that the radio waves will be so diluted, so weak at that distance as to be virtually undetectable by any known (or imagined)technology.


- Without getting into an eye-glazing, mind-numbing bit of probability arithmetic, I'm going to go out on a limb and bet a Confederate ten-dollar bill along with a good jackknife that we'd wind up with a set of odds that shake out to "One-in-More-Water-Molecules-Than-We-Have-in-the-Whole-Universe," making it a moot point.

As to how many flakes are in a cubic meter of snow, that'll depend on whether they're big flakes or little ones, and how much we squish 'em. What we can do, though, is come up with a pretty good approximation on how many water molecules would be contained in a cubic meter.


- Let me count the ways: RT folks need to be able to know things like "rest mass" (special relativity), energy levels (Planck's constant), "characteristic" and "Bramstralung" radiation (atomic structure and behavior of elemental particles), just to name a few.

Deep stuff, lots of number-crunching, and yeah, it's a deal-breaker.


Stay tuned . . . I'll eventually get to these, too.

31 December 2011

- Yikes! Better get with your priest, rabbi, or whoever on that one. This is pretty much a "hand-off" topic for science, and for good reason: this goes to how we define "science" vis-a-vis "faith."

Now there are some folks out there who want to blur the lines between the two, but I think that gets us into dangerous territory, whether it's "intelligent design" or the "anthropic principle." Yeah, there are tons of accounts regarding "near death," "out-of-body" experiences, and they even made a sci-fi movie about a scientific approach to the same ("Flatliners"), but I still think we should be minful about mixing apples and oranges.











Here's a Hubble photo

of the Cone Nebula.


This beautiful object is over 2.5

light- years

in length!


Note the stars in the foreground to get a sense of scale !