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The Sleepy Science Podcast
3 minutes | Jun 11, 2021
Happy Birthday Episode
This is just a weird birthday message to a friend. ;)
10 minutes | Aug 25, 2020
Episode 5 - Thunder Lightening & Black Holes
Lightening, ... Thunder, Lightening, ... Thunder. August in Ontario is awesome for natural displays of destruction and beauty. Everyone knows that light and sound travel at very different speeds, so when you see a flash of lightening, you can count until you hear the thunder to see how far away the lightening occurred. Roughly 3 seconds for every KM. But how does a flash of light create a deafening boom? It all has to do with plasma. Plasma occurs when you have a high energy reaction that strips electrons off the raw nuclei of their atoms. This results in a state of matter so unstable it creates ionizing radiation, like ultra violet, x-rays and gamma radiation, it's highly susceptible to the effects of electromagnetic fields, and get's extremely hot, very fast. When you have a large charge differential between clouds in the atmosphere or the clouds and ground, you can create an arc. Basically the air breaks down along these long filaments and the gas itself becomes conductive. All the electrons caught in this eddy of electromagnetism zip off of their orbitals and rush to the positive side of the charge. This causes a sudden flash of plasma. Remember electrons popping up and down between excited states causes excitation in the electromagnetic field. The larger the orbital jump, the higher energy the photon produced. There's your flash. It sweeps across the whole EM field, You're able to see it, smell it, and pick it up on radios on the other side of the planet. All of those electrons being torn away from their comfy atoms all at once means you suddenly have a massive positive charge in the atmosphere. So you get a "Coulomb Explosion". The air effectively detonates, flying apart as the nuclei are no longer held in check by their electrons. The charges are imbalanced and the air explodes creating thunder. I know this is a stretch, but a similar process can be found in the heart of dying stars. Every bolt of lightening, we experience here is like a miniature super-nova. Seems like the world we live in currently is a kin to stellar destruction. Let's look at the last moments of a large star before it goes super-nova. For millions or sometimes, billions of years, a star spends its life fusing hydrogen into helium. It then starts to fuse elements that are a bit heavier, leading up iron. Once iron comes into the equation, things get very bad very quickly. Suddenly, it’s no longer able to sustain equilibrium, because iron takes so much energy to produce, the reaction of fusion turns from exothermic to endothermic, the core collapses in on itself, all it's outer fusion layers are in free-fall until they crash against the much smaller core and rebound in a coulomb shockwave, casting off the plasma envelope and sparking a supernova. The only thing that keeps a star in check is the delicate balance between the energy being created on the inside, and the mass, or gravity, of the star that holds it together. When the shockwave propagates through the star, it pushes a lot of the material away at a speed much greater than the escape velocity of the Iron core. Since all the fusion and energy created insanely hot plasma, the star can no longer hold its form and completely breaks down. The exposed nuclei of the stellar plasma repels against itself as it is unable to keep its electrons at that high energy. The star explodes. Cosmic thunder. What happens next is completely a product of mass and density. You get either a Neutron star a pulsar or a black hole. Now a black hole is a curious thing. The main distinction here is the event horizon. Turns out everything has an event horizon. It's a sphere where if you were to compress all the mass of an object down to a certain point, you can create a black hole. If you took Mount Everest and tried to fit it into its own event horizon, it would be smaller than a proton. However, if you tried to cram the entire Earth into its own event horizon, you would have an object the size of a peanut. The sun would be only around 3 KM if you crammed it into its event horizon. People don't really know what happens when a black hole is created. What happens beyond that event horizon. It's called an EVENT horizon, because everything that falls into it, is Causally disconnected from the rest of the universe from that point forward. It's a tipping point where space itself is rushing toward the center of the gravity well faster than the speed of light. Making any outward flow if information completely impossible. This acceleration also means that anything falling into the black hole experiences massive time dilation. Essentially, anyone watching you fall into a black hole would never see you cross the event horizon. You would approach the blackness, then start to move very slowly, the light coming off you would shift red, then to microwaves, then radio waves, then be completely imperceptible, as your image blurs and fades into nothingness on the surface of the event horizon. The time dilation approaches infinity beyond the event horizon, so there you are, frozen in time... to the outside observer. But from your point of view, you would just keep falling in. The whole universe would start changing, shifting blue, as you cross rubicon. Eventually, you would be torn apart by the inrush of high energy radiation, as the clockworks of the entire universe play out in a fast-forward ballet. All of this happens long before you experience Spaghetification, and tidal forces stretch your atoms into a thin stream of matter destined for the singularity. I had an interesting thought when researching this. What if the same rebound forces that occur within supernovae are present in black holes? The star collapses as usual, and rebounds as usual into a super nova, but the fact that the star collapsed into its own event horizon, means the time dilation for the rebound blast wave completely obscures the resulting supernova. Time is stopped. Frozen just before impact. Hovering, like held breath, like the anticipation before your first teenage kiss. A logarithmic curve that will approach zero forever. When will the black holes release their secrets, and we are once again reunited with everything we've lost to time. It may be when we master, and transcend our causal connections. Casting off our temporal shackles and exist in the forever now. Until then, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and wait for your logarithmic kiss. Forever just hovering a moment away.
3 minutes | Apr 19, 2020
Episode 4 - Singing in isolation - Engine Room
In this episode, I'm reminded of the first attempts mankind made at a viable space vehicle. Laika was sent into space on a one way mission, her vitals were monitored to see if there were any adverse affects for mammals while experiencing micro-gravity. This was a one way mission. Sad song, but oddly comforting. Singing in my engine room, on my way to our nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri.
10 minutes | Apr 8, 2020
Episode 3 - Waves of life
Tonight, I'm going to tell you about the Thesis by Louis De Broglie. He was a duke, Duke De Broglie. In 1924 he submitted his thesis to a panel in Paris and they couldn't make sense of it. As a result, he almost failed his exam. But, they decided, upon reflection, that they ought to send the thesis to Einstein to have a look at it, because it was in his wheelhouse. Einstein wrote back and said that it was the first glimmer of light in the darkest times of quantum physics. De Broglie ought to get the the doctorate. Five years later he got the Nobel Prize for the material in his thesis because it opened up a new field of physics completely. In many ways he was a strikingly original thinker and yet nobody's heard of him except a small group of physicists. Einstein postulated that light could be thought of as being made of particles which he called corpuscles but these days we call them photons These are particles of light with the well-defined energy related to the frequency of the wave. Einstein was thinking of the waves actually behaving as if they're particles. If you strike a metal surface with one particle of light, an electron get's kicked off the surface in the photoelectric effect. It's a one-for-one process, and so he thought of it as a particle. These particles also must have a wave aspect because electromagnetic waves ARE waves. De Broglie takes this idea and says that maybe, just maybe ALL fundamental particles such as electrons, protons, and neutrons could behave as if they're waves. This could be a basic property of matter and reality itself. At the time the Bohr model saw atoms somewhat like planets. With electrons orbiting like little moons. It was a good model, but it didn't answer all the questions... But if you instead took the point value of the electron and replaced it with a wave of a precise frequency, and stretched that wave around the atom, you can see perfectly how the troughs and crests line up and define the orbitals the electrons inhabit. And if they are supposed to behave like photons, or waves in general, then you should be able to harness them, focus them, and maybe use them for imaging? It turns out Electron microscopes use this very process to peer at objects in ever higher resolutions. Indeed if you look at matter at the theoretical magnification limit of electron microscopes, you start to strange line patterns. Like you're looking at the interference patterns caused by waves interacting. To demonstrate this phenomena, a crude, but effective experiment was conducted called the "Double Slit" experiment. Where you take photons, or electrons, and shoot them at a phosphorous target. Every photon or electron that strikes the screen shows up as a single point on the screen. Now if you take a card with two very small slits cut into it, parallel to one another, and place that card between the source and the phosphorous screen, a strange interference pattern emerges. If light or electrons behave as particles you would expect to see just 2 areas light up on the screen as the photons travel through either one or the other slits. But what you actually see is a series of lines gradually falling off in intensity as you move away from the centre of the target. This can only happen if the photons are actually waves and can travel through BOTH slits at the same time, then interact with themselves causing the pattern on the other side of the slit card. The weirdest part of this experiment, and one that often gets misinterpreted, is that if you look at the card itself and try to discern which slit the particle traveled through, the pattern on the screen goes away, and you're left with just 2 lit sections. The particle's wave function has collapsed and is now following Newtonian rules. The act of measurement collapses this little piece of magic. The sticking point here is the term measurement. In order to measure something we need to interact with it in some way. Put in a photon detector and the photon has to hit the detector in order to register the result. But, according to the universe, ANY interaction can be considered a measurement. If it hits a molecule of air, or is affected by some stray magnetic field. Light is usually ok for this, but electrons and other charged fundamental particles are tricky. And no, your thoughts or intentions don't count as interaction. Turns out, you can do this with anything as long as it's de Broglie wave extends past the confines of the object. The experiment has been done with molecules containing up to 100 atoms, with the same result. It could be that everything we see as solid matter is just a complex woven tapestry of waves. And we're only seeing it at a great distance. Probability smooths out all the underpinnings and our existence is nothing more than a collection of averages, floating in a massive series of quantum fields. Everything is waves of some sort. Different mediums, different rates, different frequencies, but all rising and falling like a chest in deep sleep. Your physical body sloughs off cells of differing tissues at different rates and replaces them anew. You get a whole new body in about 9 years. In a lot of ways we can consider ourselves as a collection of waves propagating through the substance of the earth. A heterodyne collection of simple sines, creating the full spectrum of human experience. Or of life itself. Your existence and your actions have a ripple effect as well. Depending on your actions, your presence can be felt long after your wave has crashed on that inevitable, distant shore. Your existence laps in the ever inward rushing tide. For the rest of time. Your life is an echo. Crossing the cosmos and eventually coming back to us. Can you feel your ancestors? Playing across your skin. A dance of light. A sine wave of an invocation. The world is an emergent illusion. The interplay of all things is a labyrinthine map. The interference pattern is ever changing. It’s impossible to explain it all. But it’s enough to know you’re a part of it all and it's all contained within you. Each of us, in some way has stepped out of the heart of a dying star, to lend a hand in understanding it all.
11 minutes | Apr 4, 2020
Episode 2 - Why is the sky blue?
It's that strange time of day, right before sunset. Golden hour. You find yourself in a meadow. Surrounded by wildflowers. The sun bathes everything in a golden glow. Creating long shadows, and stark contrasts across your field of view. The sky remains blue. They say that sunlight is actually white. But as it passes through our atmosphere the blue get's filtered out, and causes the sky to light up. The diffusion of blue is so great that it obscures our view of the stars during the day. But if you wait a few moments, it'll be dusk, and something remarkable will happen. The light blue of the sky directly overhead, starts to deepen, and the flowers around you start to fluoresce. Their green stalks turning almost black, but their petals becoming brighter than their surroundings should allow. Could it be the sky is now deepening into the ultra violet range? That even though the daylight is dwindling as the sun scorches the other side of the planet, somehow the blue is retreating with it, leaving only a pale haze of ionizing radiation, dotting the ground with faint tracking lights, allowing the birds to find their roosts. At the horizon, the sun is now bright red. The sky starts to transition from red to indigo as you let your gaze wander up from our nearest star. If you take a perfect sunset, across the entire dome of the sky and compress it into a single, thick line, you notice that it makes a full spectrum, like a rainbow. Red at the horizon, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, indigo, violet at the opposite horizon. The sunlight is now refracting across the entire troposphere. The sparse stratosphere, containing mostly Nitrogen and Oxygen, who's molecules are just large enough to refract blue light, is no longer the dominant refractive force in our atmosphere, and the sun, now shining through the troposphere is subject to larger molecules, aerosols and dust. We live in a vast prism. A single water droplet caught in an incredible cosmic fog of gravity wells. Why is the sky blue? The question is common, but lacks an understanding of the nuance of colour, of light, of time... The sky is all colours, it just depends when you choose to look up. And where... and for how long. Light is tricky. It's a particle, it's a wave. It can pass through objects, reflect off of them, bend, stretch, and become absorbed. You see, it all comes down to electrons. Close your eyes and imagine a ball, surrounded by television snow. This is an atom. The snow is the atom's electron cloud. The electrons can be found in discrete layers surrounding the atom, like an onion. For this exploration let's imagine the electrons are on springs. They are movable and tend to have specific natural frequencies that are determined by how far away from the nucleus they are. Similar to a tuning fork. If a light wave of a particular frequency strikes a material containing electrons with that same natural frequency, it gives the atom a shove. Turning the light energy into vibrational energy, as the atom resonates like a struck bell it passes that vibrational energy on to neighbouring atoms, turning vibrational energy into thermal energy within the material. In this case the photon is absorbed. Never to be released again in the form of light. Since different atoms and molecules have different natural frequencies of vibration, they will selectively absorb different frequencies of visible light. You can see these absorption lines if you hold a lens up to the spectrum generated by a prism. We can use this knowledge to probe chemical makeup of everything from crime scene evidence to the composition of stars across the observable universe. Reflection and transmission of light waves occur because the frequencies of the light waves do not match the natural frequencies of vibration of the objects. When light waves of these frequencies strike an object, the electrons in the atoms of the object begin vibrating. But instead of vibrating in resonance at a large amplitude, the electrons vibrate for brief periods of time with small amplitudes of vibration; then the energy is reemitted as a light wave. If the object is transparent, then the vibrations of the electrons are passed on to neighboring atoms through the bulk of the material and reemitted on the opposite side of the object. Such frequencies of light waves are said to be transmitted. If the object is opaque, then the vibrations of the electrons are not passed from atom to atom through the bulk of the material. Rather the electrons of atoms on the material's surface vibrate for short periods of time and then reemit the energy as a reflected light wave. Such frequencies of light are said to be reflected. Refraction is stranger still. It's a cousin to transmission, in that it allows light through via transmission, but different wavelengths travel at different speeds through the material. Longer wavelengths tend to propagate with little deviation, while shorter wavelengths curve more aggressively due to their higher rate of interaction. So Red light goes almost straight through, while the path of blue light is distorted. In the case of our atmosphere, Oxygen is just the right size for blue light to give our O2 molecules a little shove and be re-emitted at a random angle from the angle of incidence. This means that, during the day, our sky is a hazy blue, as the light from the sun has been commandeered by our Oxygen and sent careening across the sun lit sky. A similar phenomena can be found in the blue of people's eyes. There is actually no blue pigment. Instead, the light goes in, blue light bounces around and is reflected back out, creating a blue hue. The same processes that govern our perception of colour, govern our visual perception of beauty and form. Eyes blinking slowly, looking up under heavy lids, lips parted slightly, slow breath, warm and familiar. An inhale is a journey of oxygen from your lungs to theirs. Close and safe. One can scarcely say there's a defining line between you. Air, light, warmth, space are all shared. You are a part of it all, and all of it is within you. One last breath and you dissolve into the room. A super-critical fluid, with no definition, and no boundaries.
6 minutes | Apr 4, 2020
Episode 0 - How to make a photon
Did you ever lay on your back beneath the stars and imagine you were on the roof of the universe. Like you were perched above the great expanse of spacetime itself and could fall into the void at any moment? I do that sometimes... and sometimes with the vaulted ceilings in museums. Often to a point where I get vertigo. This concept of up and down, past and future, movement it all its forms. I sometimes wonder if I were seeing myself in all the dimensions that exist, would my appearance become distorted and ill defined like I was looking at an object through textured glass? Or would I be driven mad by the complexity of the true underpinnings of the universe, like some existential episode of the original Star Trek series. Tonight let's talk about some of those underpinnings. Photons, where they come from, what they are, and how they behave. Close your eyes and imagine a piece of raw spaghetti. Brittle, delicate, somewhat flexible. You can feel its weight in your hands, surprisingly dense for a thin piece of hardened wheat pulp. You take that brittle stick and hold it at either end, bending it slowly until it cracks. You notice that it doesn't just snap in the middle like you would expect. Instead it breaks around a central piece that spins for a moment in the air, like a cartoon coyote going off a cliff, and tumbles undramatically to the floor. You can do this with the whole box. You will never end up with just two pieces of spaghetti in the end, instead you have 3 or more, and a small, but growing pile of fragments at your feet. It doesn't seem to make sense. But there's a physical process that happening there, that's unintuitive. It's a law of uncooked spaghetti. Now throw the spaghetti out. Don't eat it. It's just one piece. You can spare it. And imagine if you will, a ball. An unimaginably tiny erratically vibrating ball. You find yourself to be unimaginably tiny yourself. You reach out and try to grab the ball. The surface is diffuse, and animated. Almost like television snow. As you approach the ball with your hand, you see the surface distort like it's reaching out for you. In an instant a light sensation of pins and needles is covering your hand, the surface is distended making an odd lump on the side of the ball. You find a "y" shaped stick at your feet and use it to pry the ball from your hand, it's got a good grip but you ultimately prevail. As the ball is torn from your body the surface instantly swells and then moments later rebounds. Giving off a loud snap and sends a single photon whizzing past your face. You've just made a bond with an atom and broke it. You see. Energy is very different here. There are very few places for it to hide when you look at matter on this scale. The amount of energy it took for you to pry your hand off the ball, went straight into the atom, making it increase it's mass and size momentarily, according to Eienstien's famous equation, E=mc2. But the universe likes things stable. We can't have an atom stay all puffed up from a random interaction. So the the atom calms down, exits it's excited, puffed up state and emits a photon to send the energy of your reaction on its way to become entropy. The photon impacts another atom, which makes it excite, then relax, passing the photon down the line until it exits the material matrix you find yourself in. This is how light is formed from breaking chemical bonds and how transparent materials like glass transmit light.
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