May 31 2012

Grad School (part 16)

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In my moments of doubt, I tend to become a little apprehensive of some of the ideas that form in my head, about how reality works, what consciousness is, who we are, who I am, what I’m doing here (earth/2003), etc.

I feel like I’m a half step away from becoming one of those homeless people who have those amazing diagrams about UFO’s, Freemasons, Nazi Moonbases, HAARP, and The Montauk Project. And admittedly, I have a fondness for these people’s diagrams and explanations, because I find them fascinating (and besides, what if they’re right??)

But then something comes along, and tells me its okay to have odd ideas.

And that something is increasingly becoming my physics class.

Physics is incredibly weird stuff. And I’m becoming of the opinion that we really don’t have any idea what’s going on with it. And we never will (thank you, Goedel!) The map is not the territory. The menu is not the meal. But maps and menus can tell us what we need to know to appreciate certain things.

Where am I going with this?

Why, tonight’s physics fun fact.

Within the nucleus of an atom, we have protons and neutrons. By the way, proportionately speaking, the distance between the nucleus and the electrons can best be described by comparing the nucleus to a grape on the center of the 50 yard line, and the first electron shell as the ceiling of the Houston Astrodome.

But that’s not what this is about.

The nucleus of an atom is made up of protons and neutrons, which are in turn made up of quarks. The force holding these quarks together is so strong, that if you tried to separate quarks from each other, the energy that would be released would only create more quarks. The gap between the two quarks you “separated” would instantaneously be filled with more quarks to fill that gap.

So much for ripping things apart, eh?

Tonight’s other fun bit of physics:

At some ridiculously brief point after the Big Bang, as things cooled, and things condensed from the heat of the event, the resulting byproducts were 75% Hydrogen (simplest of elements), a whole lotta Helium (the next simplest element), and a wee bit of Lithium. As these hydrogen clouds condensed, they began to exert gravitational pull on a massive scale, causing nuclear fusion, thus creating the rest of the naturally occurring elements in the periodic table. This is called nucleogenesis.

So, to follow, the same primary element that makes up a star (hydrogen) in actuality creates the rest of the elements (this is awfully complex, but some stars eventually burn out and become chunks of iron). Every chemical element inside of each of us, was at one point a hydrogen atom in a star.

“Every man and every woman is a star”, indeed.

And yeah. I know Carl Sagan said it too.

One last thing:

Space is curved. Yet since nothing is static in space (presumably), the curve sort of wraps around us, and bounces back as we pass through it. Sort of like displacement, or even aerodynamics. Matter tells space how to bend, space informs matter how to move. Matter doesn’t tunnel through space. But, gravitational ripples flow out behind matter as a sort of “wake” in the space time fabric.

My professor suggested that “light is a pulsating sausage”

I’m following that up with “the universe is a throbbing, undulating mass of tapioca pudding”

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