Friday, July 31, 2015

Episode 059- wotd 0005- Event Horizon- pwn physics vocab: word-of-the-day.

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Event Horizon- The point of no return at the edge of a black hole. Because black holes are so massive, and so dense, there exists a point where space time is so warped, that even light cannot escape, but rather gets bent back into the black hole. The escape velocity is greater than the speed of light. This means that nothing can escape from inside the event horizon, not even light. This is why black holes are black. Because of this, it means that to an outside observer, there is no way to retrieve information from beyond the event horizon. We cannot know what is actually happening inside a black hole.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Episode 058- wotd 0004- Absolute Zero- pwn physics vocab: word-of-the-day.

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"It is impossible for any process, no matter how idealized, to reduce the entropy of a system to its absolute-zero value in a finite number of operations." -Nernst

Absolute Zero- The absolute floor in terms of temperature. Temperature is in some sense a measure of energy of a system. Because particles are always moving, and vibrating, they always have some energy. At Absolute Zero, the particles or objects would be completely devoid of energy. According to the Third Law of Thermodynamics, it is not possible to achieve absolute zero. In America, we predominantly measure temperatures using Farenheight, and the rest of the world using Celsius. Absolute Zero is accepted to be -459-67 Farenheight and -273.15 Celsius. There are two analog scales, Rydberg for Farenheight and Kelvin for Celsius, which keep the same gradation of degrees, such as 1 degree Farenheight is the same as 1 degree Rydberg, and 1 degree Kelvin is the same as 1 Degree Celsius. However, Rydberg and Kelvin both set their 0s to align with Absolute Zero, whereas 0 Celsius is aligned with the freezing point of water, and 0 Farenheight is aligned with absolutely nothing. (It's actually based on some really convoluted mixtures of ice water, brine, and other chemicals. I'm not sure what they were thinking)

Recently it has been proposed that some scientists have managed to create a temperature colder than absolute zero. The idea is that if you heat something up to an infinite temperature, it "swings around" and becomes a negative temperature. In doing so they have managed to come to a temperature lower than absolute zero. However, absolute zero at the time of this writing has as of yet been unachieved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Episode 057- wotd 0003- Light Year- pwn physics vocab: word-of-the-day podcast

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Light Year- A light year is the measure of distance which describes the amount of distance travelled by light in a vacuum during 1 Earth Year. It's a little misleading because the name can be easily misunderstood to mean an amount of time. A light year is a vast amount of distance. Light travels 300,000,000 m/s, or 3 million km in on second. It takes roughly 8 minutes for light to travel from the sun to the Earth. New Horizons just travelled all the way to Pluto, roughly 7 billion miles. This immense distance represents roughly .0007 light years. The nearest star, except our Sun is something like 4 Light Years. A light year is a very long distance, but it can be very useful when measuring large distances and exploring our Cosmos.

Episode 056- wotd 0002- Quark- pwn physics vocab- word-of-the-day podcast

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Quark- A quark is a subatomic particle which makes up protons, neutrons and other particles classified as baryons and mesons. Baryons and mesons form a family referred to as hadrons. There are 6 different quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange. Each quark also has an associated "antiquark" which has all of the same properties except some have the opposite sign, i.e. charge, spin, etc. Baryons are particles made of 3 quarks and mesons are made of 2 quarks. Protons and Neutrons are both Baryons. A proton is made of two up quarks and a down quark. A Neutron is made of two down quarks and an up quark.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Episode 055: wotd 0001- Laser - pwn physics vocab: word-of-the-day.

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"The first of anything has power." -Robert Fripp

Laser- (as per wikipedia) - a device that generates an intense beam of coherent monochromatic light (or other electromagnetic radiation) by stimulated emission of photons from excited atoms or molecules.

When I was a graduate student I had the opportunity to learn about several ways in which lasers are generated. The basic idea is that once you can keep the electrons cascading up and down between certain energy states, you can then "pump" them up and down and it generates light in a very reliable way. These days, we use lasers for many things: eye surgery, etching, sights on guns, to detect speeds, to measure whether something is straight, the list goes on and on. Back in the last century (can't believe I'm writing that), it was widely thought that lasers were only red, because this was the only type of photons that could be reliably pumped. However, nowadays, we are able to produce lasers which are red, green, blue, blue-violet, and purple.

Episode 054: Physics News 01: UFOs, SpaceSuit Preservation, Bitcoins, and a New Podcast!

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Lots going on in the world, Here's just a little taste of some of the new rumblings in the physics universe.

Alright, first and foremost, I am very excited to present to you the nascent episodes of a new pwn physics podcast spawn: pwn physics vocabulary: word-of-the-day podcast. It's something I've been thinking about for a while now, and have 5 episodes in the pocket. I'll be throwing up one a day for this week, then we'll take a little break until the real thing launches. Any feedback you have would be most welcome. So, I hope you check it out, and that it keeps physics things fresh in your mind! They are designed to be very short, maybe 2-3 minutes, just to keep everything nice and lubricated, and hopefully every once in a while present you with something you've never heard about before!

Next up, Stephen Hawking has been a busy boy. You probably know him from his infamous "A Brief History of Time" book, but he is seriously popular in the physics world, and has done mind bending physics in the realms of black holes, and their surrounding parts. Recently, he has proclaimed that he doesn't think the species will survive another 1000 years on this planet without breaking our earthbound shackles and seriously exploring the cosmos. Check out the full story here. He's also part of a new effort to spend 100 million over the next 10 years in search of extra terrestrial life, with Russian Entrepreneur Yuri Milner. Read more about it in the New York Times article here.

As I've did an episode about Units of Measure when we first started, on twitter I've been following @UnitFact, which is maintained by John D Cook, and he presents one fact a day about units of measure. Usually they tend to be about exponential prefixes, or how much certain things way. Very interesting, but highly relatable to things which I already understand. One that was a little more unusual, but still in the edges of my expertise, was that the fundamental unit of measure of Bitcoin, a new type of "cryptocurrency" is called a Satoshi. This is supposedly named after Bitcoin's inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto. However, Satoshi does not exist. It looks like this was a nomme de guerre for someone who didn't want to be found. One of the current experts and evangelists of bitcoin, Andreas Antonopoulos, has done 3 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, where he explains more about Bitcoin than you may care to know. It's fascinating, and below I have linked up the Youtube versions of the episodes. Great listening if you're on a car ride and have 8-10 hours to burn.

The Smithsonian has started a Kickstarter campaign to preserve Neil Armstrong's moon space suit. They have already met their goal, and are now trying to overshoot for funds to preserve Alan Shepherd's Mercury space suit. Check out the campaign, the rewards, and if you want to chip in, do so here. The idea is to have everything prepared so the display can be in place for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, in 2019. The nickname for the campaign is "reboot the suit".

Finally, with New Horizons having flown past Pluto successfully, and regaled us with many new images, I leave you with this piece of information, courtesy of @SarcasticRover on twitter: "New Horizons only cost 700 million. That's how much people in Colorado spent on weed last year. Both perfectly valid options." When you put it that way it doesn't really sound like we're breaking the ol' taxpayer piggy bank for these missions. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Although New Horizons has taken the lion's share of attention, there is a probe, Dawn, which has made it's way to dwarf planet, Ceres, which is the largest object in the asteroid belt. There are some shiny spots in one of the craters which are currently unexplained. It is clearly a reflection from something, current speculations are salt and ice. Check out the full story from NASA here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Episode 053: 12 Native American Full Moon Month Monikers!

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Way back when, before cell phones, and before even the European plunder of the Americas, there were Native Americans, and they did not have any fancy devices to tell them what day it was. They had to keep track of the time, and the seasons, by memory and word of mouth. There was a lot more at stake. Not properly preparing for the cold long winters could mean not making it to see the next summer. So, many tribes created "nicknames" for each full moon, to aid with the memory of what was happening in Mother Nature during that time, as well as what was to come. Below we have each moniker with a brief explanation.

The January Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Wolf Moon. This name was given because the hungry wolves could be heard howling most readily during the cold month of January. The bounty of the fall had run out, and the wolves were on the prowl for more food.

The February Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Snow Moon. No surprise here, it is so named because February in North America is usually the toughest of the winter months.

The March Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Worm Moon. As the ground begins to thaw, the earthworms begin to reappear in the soil.

The April Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Pink Moon. It is so named after the Pink Phlox, one of the first flowering plants, which begins around the month of April, the first foothold out of the winter months.

The May Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Flower Moon. With spring in full flight, most plants are in flowering mode in the month of May. April showers bring May flowers.

The June Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Strawberry Moon. With little surprise, June is when strawberries are in season, a vital find for any foraging tribe.

The July Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Buck Moon. This is because the young male deer, or bucks, would begin growing their antlers near the beginning of summer.

The August Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Sturgeon Moon. This is because the sturgeon in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught near the month of August.

The September Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Corn Moon. Aptly named, corn harvest occurs in september, signal the end of the summer months and the move towards autumn.

The October Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Hunter's Moon. As many animals have fattened over the summer months, they were ready to be harvested and stored for the rough winter months ahead.

The November Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Beaver Moon. As the weather is getting much colder, with winter imminent, this was the last change to trap beavers before the lakes froze, which enabled the trappers a bounty of fur to keep the tribes warm for winter.

The December Full Moon in Native American Lore is referred to as a Full Cold Moon. December in North America is when the seriously cold nights begin, and thus the Cold Moon sits above us in the sky.

BONUS: If there is a full moon twice in a month, this is referred to as a Blue Moon. The last one was in 2012. This July we are due for a Blue Moon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Episode 052: 3 Must Have Tools to PWN Your Physics Class & New Horizons 2015!

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As of this writing the New Horizons probe, en route to Pluto, has "gone dark". It has ceased communications to use all possible effort to take data as it comes within 8000 km of the dwarf planet. A very historic event. We have now made it past all of the planets in our solar system. I remember when Pluto was a planet. When there was no data. I expect that will all change quite a bit in the coming months. It is one of those things that really gives you perspective about what we could be achieving as a species, and that we are in fact achieving. There are unbelievable things out there, and the people who are doing most of those unbelievable things at this stage are scientists who have a passionate intelligence and curiosity about our universe. I think you'd be hard pressed to find people who aren't at least passively interested in these sorts of reports like a probe to Pluto.

Take a look at the picture at the top of this page. It was taken with the Hubble Telescope, one of the most powerful telescopes ever built, orbiting our planet. We are able to get crystal clear pictures of our universe with this tool. Yet look how hazy the picture our best earthbound technology is able to give us. In contrast, take a look at any of the recent pictures posted by NASA taken by New Horizons. The contrast is very exciting.

If this is something that is of interest to you let me tell you that to be a part of this is wildly achievable. You can work on these types of projects. But it takes a lot of work, and the first step is to do great in your introductory physics classes, and tools like this podcast are certainly going to help you out. For this episode, I wanted to give you three more tools in your quiver that I think are essential to PWNing your physics classes.

1) Example Problems- Taken from in-class notes, (do you kids use Evernote now?), textbook problems, or *achem* ...::checks to see if the cops are around::.. the solutions manual.

2) Mathematica/Maple/Matlab/Python/LABVIEW- Take your pick. We are tool using mammals. This is our advantage. In physics, the tools of the trade are certainly computer based now. Calculators opened the world up to making us better and more accurate, but also slightly lazier in terms of raw computing. Fortunately or unfortunately, computers are way better at it. We can use this to focus on the bleeding edge of science instead of iterations and calcuations. You can build incredible models and even solve equations algebraically. They are seriously impressive tools. In general it looks like this: Hardcore physicists and theoretical guys use Mathematica. Experimental guys use LABVIEW and Python. Engineers use MATLAB, and Mathematicians seem to like Maple. Of course this is not a hard rule but that was my trending experience and also where I was able to use each of those softwares.

Below is a piece of code from mathematica that is now called Wolfram Alpha and is internet embeddable code. It allows you to graph a line inputting any numbers you desire. Check it out below.

3) LaTeX- I may be one of the few on this, but I think it's essential for good homework practices. I am of the computer generation. I grew up with good penmanship but now it's barely legible. I also go down a lot of different paths when not constrained to typeset. My paper does not follow the lines. My work is everywhere. Also, you can't really type out physics homework with something like Microsoft Word. LaTeX is made for this sort of thing. Long equations. Tons of math. Any symbol you could ever want. LaTeX is what most people use to publish scientific papers. Starting now will make this a lot more approachable when you're working on your paper and the deadline is nigh. It will also impress your professors and make their life very easy. It also lets you box your answers which they will love you forever for

Now that we're in the summer months, you have a great opportunity to go mining for example problems, load and play with LaTeX, and also mess around with the other aforementioned softwares and pick which one you like the best. It's going to help you a lot come crunch time!