Posts tagged sun

Science. The Real Why… For Me

I love science but I am not a scientist.  I’m not one of those cliché guys/gals that just says they like science because nerds and geeks are the “in” thing.  I was well into it before that.  I will say that I do like that movement and hope it lasts.  The reason, for me, runs very deep.  I will explain.

Science is not some mystical subject.  It’s not some unobtainable understanding for the layman.  It isn’t for the elite few with lots of money, luck or both.  Science, unlike Justice, is not blind.  It is, or can be, all seeing and best of all it is one simple word: understanding.  You see you don’t have to have degrees and PhDs to get it.  It’s true that science and it’s inner workings require a lot of discipline to know and understand but fundamentally it does not.  I’ll explain.

The Sun's WorkingsTo know

As I said, it’s about understanding.  Here’s an example:

How does the Sun work?  If you’re not sure that’s ok.  If you’re an astrophysicist then I should hope you’d know.  The thing is, it’s simple to explain how it works.  That is, you can tell the average citizen how it works and you’ll see the light bulb go off in their head. Pun.

I won’t leave you hanging so here’s a rough explanation:

So the Sun works on a basic principle; nuclear fusion.  It’s some 75% hydrogen, 24% helium and 1% other stuff.  The intense (26,000,000F) heat and pressure are perfect conditions for hydrogen atoms to fuse into a heavier helium atom.  To simplify this a little, imagine that hydrogen weighs 1 and you add another 1 to it.  You might expect the helium to come out as weighing 2 but it doesn’t.  It weighs a little less.  So what happened? That mass it lost was converted into energy.  That energy is the heat and light we feel and see everyday.  The fusion process is in harmonious balance with the gravitational forces that would otherwise cause the Sun to collapse in on itself.

See? It’s pretty a pretty simple concept.  Yes, it’s way way more complex on a deeper level but that’s plenty easy for anyone to understand.

Boy is that cat pissed!Lifting The Veil Of Uncertainty

The thing is, people have to be willing to learn this stuff.  Some people are extremely narrow in their views and some view science as irrelevant.  That is a dangerous position to take.  Why?  Our world is more and more dependent on technology.  We cannot let the advancement of science and technology take a back seat to primitive tendencies that humans have an amazing knack for.

Ok, so the real why.  I’m at that point you see.  It’s not about “I know this and you don’t so neener neener!” No, absolutely not.  If anyone boasts on their intellectual superiority then they’re no better than the very people that I loathe.  Science gives you a broad view on the world.  It gives you a broad view on every single thing in the Universe.  You don’t look at a person and think “they are different/inferior to me…” you think “they are different and that’s fascinating…”  With the idea and concept of science, your view becomes unbiased.

You suddenly realize that you’re comprised of particles; that make up atoms; that make up molecules; that make up organic compounds; that form cells; that form our bodies to start living in a town; in a county; in a state; in a country; on a continent; on a planet; in a solar system; in a galaxy; in a galactic cluster; in a super cluster in the Universe.  While we’re each unique, we’re also so very, very tiny.  I mean VERY tiny.  It’s humbling and it opens ones eyes to the reality of the world beyond literal imagination.  It’s so big and vast that one might argue “Why bother anyway?”  The answer is “Why not?”  If we stop now, then the human race is done for.  If we want to progress as a species (yes, that’s right, people from ALL walks of life) then we must progress towards a grander understanding.

The Elusive Utopian Dream

nevergonnagetthereI know, it’s a fools dream.  I tend to believe that most people are good at heart and maybe they do stupid things under pressure of a small number not so good people.  Even the people that aren’t so good would probably benefit from just a basic understanding of why “knowing” is important.  That’s what science is; to know.  It’s the understanding of the natural world of which we are all a part of.  There’s no escaping it.  If you’re reading this, you’re a part of something really big, even if you’re just a tiny piece of the puzzle.

It’s our duty as human beings to try and be kinder to each other and for that matter the Earth upon which we live.  It can be scary to stray from old and comfortable ideas but we’re all in this together whether we like it or not.  Degrading someone because they’re different does not advance our species in any way imaginable.  The same goes for putting yourself on a pedestal above others.

Where Do We Go From Here?

All of this was spurred on by reading comments/tweets on the web regarding young children that were either of a certain ethnicity or had a disorder.  The most vile stuff spewed forth from the fingertips of these people.  Stuff that, if they had to say in person, they’d never be able to do.  The ‘man behind the curtain’ effect gives people an increased audacity.  Don’t even GET me started on cyber bullying.  I’ll stop there for now.  This was just a big late night rant but I firmly stand behind this reasoning.  I don’t ‘believe’ or ‘think’ that an understanding of the natural world would be enlightening to our species; I know it would be.

As always, keep looking up.

 

Things you probably don’t think about: Why can’t we see Venus overhead at night?

We all know the planets are out there, orbiting tirelessly around the Sun.  How do we know? Well, we can see them, and most with the naked eye!  Something you might not have thought about is why we can see all the planets overhead at night except Venus and Mercury.

Why is that?

Here is the simple answer:  Our orbit is outside of Venus and Mercury’s orbit.  Therefore when they are directly overhead it is daytime to some degree.  Have no fear, I’m a fan of using imagery.  Take a look below.

Inner Solar System

Note: light travels out in all directions obviously and this is not to scale either

So you can see there, when the Sun is overhead, the orbits of Venus and Mercury are also overhead.  Since they never travel outside of the Earth’s orbit, we never see them overhead at night.  Mars on the other hand is commonly visible at night (as is Jupiter and Saturn).  We also go around the Sun faster than Mars so we actually lap it (it goes around every 1.8 Earth years).  Neat huh?

Venus is often called the Morning or Evening Star.  That’s because we see it either before the Sun rises or after the Sun sets, depending on where all the planets are at the time.  After it rises far enough in the morning sky, the sky itself becomes too bright to be able to easily see it.  Though it is possible.  As for setting, it just dips below the horizon.

Just recently we were also able to see Mercury in the evening sky.  The window to capture that rare moment was small; just a couple of weeks I believe.  I snapped a photo which you can see in an earlier post.

So there you have it of something you probably never wondered about in the first place. 🙂

NASA Solar Probe

This really got me worked up. It wasn’t enough that it’s a space probe which is inherently cool! It’s a probe headed to the sun, obviously. What makes this one different? Well a few things do!

For starters this probe will travel 8 times closer than any previous probe. It will get as close as 4.1 million miles. It sounds like a lot but consider we are 93 million miles away. I suddenly want to break into a TMBG song! Anyhow, it gets cooler, or hotter, depending on if you like puns or not. This spacecraft will also achieve the fastest speed of any probe ever launched. Ever.

The top speed of this craft will be around 450,000mph (about 724,000km/h for you metric folks!). That is nearly half a million miles per hour! You could travel to the moon in about half an hour. That’s what made me so giddy about this one.

It goes up in 2015 and will help us to better understand some mysteries of our nearest star. One of which is why the Corona is 1.8 million degrees (F) vs the comparably chilly surface of 11,000F. I’m not converting that to metric, sorry, it’s late and I’m tired 🙂

It’s a great time to be a science nut!

CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/05/18/solar.probe/index.html
Official site: http://solarprobe.gsfc.nasa.gov

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