Dark Matter #2: Gravitational Lensing

heic1506e.jpgA couple of months ago I talked about a piece of evidence supporting the existence of Dark Matter which is the fact that the stars in the outskirts of galaxies were seen to move at a similar pace as galaxies near the galactic core, defying the norm of the Keplerian Decline.

Recap: Dark Matter makes up roughly 25% of the Universe, so it is five times more prevalent than ordinary Baryonic Matter. Physicists gave it the name Dark Matter not because of it having some mysterious evil property or anything of that sort, but because it simply does not interact with Electromagnetic Radiation. I agree Physicists are a creative bunch.

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Renewables…you say?

Most of the energy we use to power technology come from finite sources which are not sustainable. This energy which may be in the form of either fossil fuels, coal or even nuclear fuels and so on will eventually be used up. However renewable sources such as solar power will not run out…..until the sun runs out of hydrogen fuel but that’s another story.

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Even my trusty fx- 85GT PLUS uses solar power.

We are able to harness the light energy radiated by the sun by the used of solar cells. A solar cell is an electronic device made of semiconductors which exhibit the photovoltaic effect to convert light energy into electrical energy. Semiconductors are materials which lie between conductors and insulators. A conductor is a material which is composed of atoms in which electrons are easily freed from the nuclei. Even though it is able to form a current, it remains electronically neutral as there are the same number of positive protons and negative free electrons. An insulator, on the other hand, is a material which is composed of atoms which hold more tightly onto their electrons so they have no free electrons like conductors. Current is a measure of the rate of flow of charge through a material, with the electrons being the charge carriers transporting energy across a circuit.  Continue reading

On Polaroid Filters – Brief

polaroid5_zps7a198bc5Light is weird. Light or Electromagnetic Waves are well, waves. They are a result of a changing oscillating electric field and a magnetic field. Sometimes we call them Photons, massless high-speed subatomic particles, coming in packets called Quanta. Wave-particle duality is only the brief introduction of the enormous and extraordinary area within Physics called Quantum Theory.

A slinky is a nice little demonstration of how light travels. Light is a transverse wave so it vibrates perpendicular to the direction of energy travel. In Third Year of High School, my Physics teacher used a slinky as an example to illustrate this feature of a transverse wave and also the other, longitudinal wave, which is a wave in which its vibrations are parallel to the direction of travel. Two people held the slinky at the two ends and one begins to vibrate the slinky coils left to right.

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Debunking vitamin C

So, I’m sure many of us have seen the advertisement packaging for supposedly healthy drinks. One of most popularised is vitamin C. I don’t know about you but when I was growing up, I associated vitamin C with oranges and how they prevent scurvy (as told by parents to ensure I was receiving my 5 a day). So what makes this chemical so important?

Well, it turns out, Vitamin C is a vitamin (duh) which is able to dissolve in water and has the chemical formula of C6 H8 O6. The molecular structure of vitamin C is seen in the diagram below:
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Thoughts #9 – Scottish Space School

As you can probably infer from the title of this thoughts post, I was recently notified that I had made a successful application to the Scottish Space School programme. To be accepted onto the programme has been a dream of mine for the past two years as a former student from my school described her intriguing experience.

The Scottish Space School programme is designed for students into Science and currently progressing through the second last year of high school.It is a week-long Space-themed residential at the University of Strathclyde and features a set of lectures given by leading researchers, laboratory activities and workshops supported by NASA astronauts and engineers. On top of that, at the end of the week, 10 students are selected to go visit NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

I am incredibly excited and grateful to have been offered a place and hopefully on the programme I’m able to meet a bunch of like-minded people who are as fascinated about the cosmos as me!

Till next time,

Susan

Thoughts #8 – On NASA’s Exoplanet Discovery ‘Beyond Our Solar System’

I heard the news that NASA was going to announce a breakthrough discovery a couple of days ago and as an astrophysics enthusiast, I was extremely excited.

Today, 22nd February 2017, NASA announces the discovery of seven new exoplanets orbiting a star – Trappist-1 only 40 light years away. Not only is this a record on its own, the content of the discovery is as or more so intriguing. Yes, we are talking about these as planets that could potentially support life. Each and every one of them are rocky resembling the inner four planets within our solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, and all have been claimed to have the possibility of supporting liquid water on their surfaces. The discovery is not only astonishing in this essence but also of the fact that Trappist-1 is rather small and dim allowing them to be temperate, thus perhaps be home to life.

Even though only three out of seven of the planets lie within the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of the star system, this discovery opens up more pathways for interstellar exploration into these worlds, enables further research on their atmospheres and gives us a fairly good chance of looking for clues about life out with Earth.

Till next time,

Susan

 

 

Exciting enzymes?

So…I haven’t written a sole biology blog post in such a long time so I thought I would share some of the knowledge covered in class, more specifically on exciting enzymes.


Enzymes are biological catalysts made by living organisms which speed up chemical reactions. Each cell in our bodies is like a factory, constantly using up raw materials to turn them into useful products and also resulting in waste products. These reactions are usually slow if unaided by either heat or enzymes. This can be annoying in everyday life, for example, delayed respiration rates which rely heavily on enzymes. The food we eat in turn become the energy we use (vastly simplified). Continue reading

On Alcohols – Some High School level Chemistry

Alcohols are organic chemical compounds that consist of a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached to one or more carbon atoms within an alkane structure. Alcohols are a homologous series and have the general formula of CnH2n+1OH.

Examples of common alcohols include:

 

The OH attached within the alcohols result in higher melting and boiling points than expected for a compound of similar molecular mass. The hydroxyl group is a form of hydrogen bonding which is the strongest intermolecular force and gives rise to their stronger structure. This strong molecular structure takes more energy to break than the ones in compounds that are held together by London Dispersion Forces (weakest intermolecular force) or Permanent Dipole-Permanent Dipole attractions. Continue reading

Thoughts #7 -Shakespeare’s portrayal of gender inequality

This post is for the females in this world. I have long heard the stories of girls who were told to stay at home because the best ‘job’ they could ever have was being a housewife. Another told me that her own gran cut off all relations with her as she proceeded to university to achieve her own dreams and ambition. Apparently, this meant there were no school fees left for her younger brother. As much as this is discussed in our daily lives, this is an issue which is prevalent all throughout history. A prime example can be found back in one of the Shakespeare’s work. Continue reading

Dark Matter #1: Galactic Rotation Curves

After the death of pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin, I suspect many more people have become intrigued by the term Dark Matter. Something else that often accompanies this term is Dark Energy. Both probably sound like mysterious or perhaps evil forces of nature to an ordinary person – at least I thought so, but then I learned Dark simply implied that it doesn’t interact with light.

A friend’s sister, a frequent reader of Passion for STEM and also a physics lover herself suggested that I write something on dark matter. At first, I thought this may be a difficult task (and I still do) because of the amount of uncertainty regarding what it actually is within the scientific community.

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Everything we know that exists: us, all living things, all nonliving things, all the stars, galaxies, asteroids and cosmic dust collectively gather under one title – Baryonic Matter, and it accounts for less than 5% of the known Universe. The rest of the Universe under current calculation predictions is dark matter and dark energy, making up roughly 25% and 70% of the stuff in the Universe. This is rather overwhelming as what we know and experience is only less than a tiny fraction of reality. Since dark matter cannot be observed because it doesn’t interact with light, or as we say the electromagnetic force, there is no direct way of detecting it so how do physicists know that so much of the Universe’s mass is dark matter and not just ordinary matter like dust? Continue reading