Category: physics

These 5 Accomplishments Prove That Santa Claus Is The World’s Greatest Scientist

“With 500 million households to hit in just 42 hours, there is so much that Santa needs to accomplish at each one. At a bare minimum, he has to:

  1. travel from the previous house to the next one without wasting too much time,
  2. park and depart his sleigh, entering the household undetected,
  3. deliver each and every one of the necessary presents to that house,
  4. eat any snacks that were left for him,
  5. and then exit the house undetected, re-entering the sleigh, and beginning the process all over again.

If we allot him the entirety of the 42 hours available to accomplish this task, he can only spend a maximum of 300 microseconds (or 0.0003 seconds) on the sum total of these tasks for each and every household. It might seem an impossibility, at least for a normal human with conventional technology.

But if Santa truly is the world’s greatest scientist, it could all feasibly fall into place. Here are each the five challenges he’s clearly conquered, with speculation as to how.”

Have you ever wondered how Santa Claus delivers toys all over the world in just one night to so many households? The answer is easy: with science! 

Here’s how Santa must have gone about conquering his greatest obstacles to bring about another year of unparalleled success in making children happy all over the world.

When you didn’t get an exemption and have to take the final but you have no clue what’s going on

What The 3 Biggest Physics Discoveries Of The Decade Mean For The Future Of Science

“As the coming decades unfold, we won’t simply measure how one or two supermassive black holes in the Universe evolve, but dozens or even hundreds. It’s possible that stellar-mass black holes will enter the fold as well, as they’re contained within our own galaxy and thus appear relatively large. It’s even possible that we’ll get a surprise, and the black holes that appear to be quiet will exhibit radio signatures that these telescope arrays can pick up, after all.

There is a clear path laid out to continued exploration of the Universe, and all it relies on is extending what we’re already doing. We do not know what secrets nature holds beyond the already explored frontiers, but we do know one thing for certain: if we don’t look, we’ll never learn.”

The 2010s saw an enormous array of scientific achievements, from an explosion of exoplanet discoveries to quantum supremacy to laser advances to cosmological measurements, visiting Pluto, entering interstellar space and more. But three discoveries not only shook up the world, but have profound implications for the future of science in the 21st century.

The Higgs boson, gravitational waves, and measuring an event horizon are the big 3 physics discoveries of the 2010s. Here’s what they mean for our future.

No, Scientists Will Never Be Able To Remove The Empty Space From Atoms

“It might be a delightful science fiction dream to remove the empty space from atoms, decreasing the volume that matter occupies by factors of millions, trillions or even more. However, it isn’t that the electrons orbiting the nucleus inherently occupy an extremely large volume of space, but rather that the quantum properties inherent to particles — masses, charges, interaction strength, and quantum uncertainty — all combine to create the atoms that exist in our Universe.

Even if we had a stable, heavier counterpart of the electron, or the ability to compress matter to arbitrarily dense states, we’d run into a quantum threshold where the atomic nuclei at the centers of atoms would spontaneously fuse, preventing stable configurations of multiple atoms from existing at all. The fact that our atoms are mostly empty space permits the existence of molecules, chemistry, and life.

Removing the empty space from atoms might be a fun thought experiment, but atoms are the size they are because of the rules of the Universe. Our existence is dependent on that empty space being present, but with the constants of nature having the values they do, don’t worry. It cannot be any other way.”

What you’ve heard is true: atoms really are mostly empty space. Ever since that discovery more than a century ago, people have imagined what it might be like if it were possible to remove the empty space from these atoms, and what sort of interesting things we’d be able to create if we could do so. As it turns out, though, there are good fundamental reasons why the empty space can’t be removed, and dire consequences we face when we try the only two things we can think of.

Come learn the science of why we’ll never be able to remove the empty space from atoms.

Just my summary of classical mechanics that made me pass the exam in the first semester. Nostalgia.

Ask Ethan: Could Octonions Unlock How Reality Really Works?

The octonions themselves will never be “the answer” to how reality works, but they do provide a powerful, generalized mathematical structure that has its own unique properties. It includes real, complex, and quaternion mathematics, but also introduces fundamentally unique mathematical properties that can be applied to physics to make novel — but speculative and hitherto unsupported — predictions.

Octonions can give us and idea of which possibilities might be compelling to look at in terms of extensions to known physics and which ones might be less interesting, but there are no concrete observables predicted by the octonions themselves. Pierre Ramond, my former professor who taught me about octonions and Lie groups in physics, was fond of saying, “octonions are to physics what the Sirens were to Ulysses.” They definitely have an allure, but if you dive in, they may drag you to a hypnotic, inescapable doom.

Their mathematical structure holds an incredible richness, but nobody knows whether that richness means anything for our Universe or not.

Have you ever heard of an octonion? Many have been speculating over the past few years that they might hold the key to the mathematical structure that underpins our reality, as there are deep connections between physical ideas that extend the Standard Model (such as string theory) and the mathematics of the octonions. Exploring the math with a view to what it might mean for physics is fascinating.

Here’s what an octonion is, how it related to the mathematics you know, and why physicists are interested in (but skeptical of) their potential relevance for the Universe.

This Is How You Can Create Your Own Real-Life Death Star

“The Death Star may have begun as a purely fictional creation to represent imperialism, military power, and hubris run amok, but the idea of completely destroying a planet with a space-borne superweapon is truly possible given our current understanding of physics. By creating and storing a large enough stockpile of antimatter, using a realistic laser to cut a path to a planet’s core, and then depositing that antimatter in the core, planetary destruction becomes physically inevitable.

A sufficiently resource-rich mad scientist, once we unlock the practical creation and storage potential of neutral, stable antimatter, could turn the Death Star into physical reality. The power of science literally holds the secret to destroying an entire world. By leveraging mass-energy equivalence, matter-antimatter annihilation, and a little bit of near-future technology, an asteroid’s worth of antimatter could deliver you your own galactic empire!”

So, you want to destroy an Alderaan-sized world, do you? Fancy building your own Death Star and perhaps even your own galactic empire? Well, step out of the world of science fiction and learn the real-life science of how creating a planet-destroying superweapon is not only possible, but doesn’t require any new physics over what we already know.

On the eve of a brand new Star Wars movie where the Death Star may even make a long-awaited (re)appearance, learn how to create your own, with science!

This Is How Astronomers Know The Age Of The Universe (And You Can, Too)

“The reason that we can claim the Universe is 13.8 billion years old to such enormous precision is driven by the full suite of data that we have. A Universe that expands more quickly needs to have less matter and more dark energy, and its Hubble constant multiplied by the age of the Universe will have a larger value. A slower-expanding Universe requires more matter and less dark energy, and its Hubble constant multiplied by the age of the Universe gets a smaller value.

However, in order to be consistent with what we observe, the Universe can be no younger than 13.6 billion years and no older than 14.0 billion years, to more than 95% confidence. There are many properties of the Universe that are indeed in doubt, but its age isn’t one of them. Just make sure you take the Universe’s composition into account, or you’ll wind up with a naive — and incorrect — answer.”

Earlier this year, there was a report that the Universe could have been a billion years younger than we currently think. Many people still think that you can calculate the age of the Universe directly from the Hubble constant. And even though the concept of the age of the Universe is a simple one to understand, the pitfalls are so numerous that even Nobel Laureates can fall into them.

We know the age of the Universe to a remarkable and unambiguous precision: 13.8 billion years. Here’s how we get there and how you can get there yourself, too.

Advanced LIGO Just Got More Advanced Thanks To An All-New Quantum Enhancement

“The current observing run of LIGO has been going on since April of this year, and there are already more than double the number of candidate signals than the total number of signals from all previous runs combined. This isn’t due to using the same instruments for longer periods of time, but owes this newfound success to some very exciting upgrades, including this clever new technique of squeezed quantum states.

For decades, scientists have had the idea to leverage squeezed quantum states to reduce the quantum uncertainty in the most important quantities for gravitational wave detections. Thanks to hard work and remarkable advances made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, this new, third observing run is already seeing more success than any gravitational wave detector in history. By reducing the phase uncertainty in the quantum vacuum that LIGO’s photons experience, we’re in exactly the right position to make the next great breakthrough in astrophysics.”

Did you know that LIGO and Virgo have been engaged in a new observing run since April of this year? Have you heard that the new run is up to 50% more sensitive than prior runs? That’s true, and it’s due to a number of improvements in noise reduction, including one fascinating way to leverage and control how quantum uncertainty plays out. These squeezed quantum states enable you to put the uncertainty where you most want it, and measure the corresponding quantity even more precisely as a result.

Come find out how we’re bending the quantum rules of the Universe to our will for the benefit of science; it’s a remarkable story!

This Is Why Scientists Will Never Exactly Solve General Relativity

“One of the most valuable lessons I ever got in my life came during the first day of my first college math class on differential equations. The professor told us, “Most of the differential equations that exist cannot be solved. And most of the differential equations that can be solved cannot be solved by you.” This is exactly what General Relativity is — a series of coupled differential equations — and the difficulty that it presents to all those who study it.

We cannot even write down the Einstein field equations that describe most spacetimes or most Universes we can imagine. Most of the ones we can write down cannot be solved. And most of the ones that can be solved cannot be solved by me, you, or anyone. But still, we can make approximations that allow us to extract some meaningful predictions and descriptions. In the grand scheme of the cosmos, that’s as close as anyone’s ever gotten to figuring it all out, but there’s still much farther to go. May we never give up until we get there.”

In our best theory of gravity, General Relativity, we can compute to arbitrary accuracy the effects on matter of any spacetime that we can write down. Unfortunately, most of the spacetimes that we can dream up in our head aren’t ones that we can write down, and most of the ones that we can write down can only be solved approximately, not exactly.

This is not a flaw nor a benefit: it is simply a property of the theory that we have. Is it the final answer? Perhaps not. But it’s the best one we’ve got so far. Here’s what it means.