Carl Sagan

My life is a little hectic at the moment due to UCAS (University Application) deadlines and so on. While in the middle of composing my personal statement, I found a small tribute text I had written about Carl Sagan last year as a response to the following question for an application.

If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?

And I followed up with this:

I would love to have dinner with Carl Sagan.

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Short Rant about Entropy and the Universe

1entropy.gifOne of the most important laws of Physics is perhaps one we have all heard once in a while – the second law of thermodynamics.

This law states that the entropy – in a closed system – in which we can infer as the Universe, will always increase.

A common misconception with the term entropy is that it is a measure of disorder. A “disordered” state does not necessarily mean that it has high entropy and vice versa. Entropy is rather the number of ways particles can be arranged. We can take tea and milk as an example, as many people do. Looking at the tea and milk system, at the instantaneous moment when you pour milk into tea, it is perceived to have low entropy, this is because the milk molecules are virtually sitting on top of the tea molecules. When you wait for a second or two until the milk starts to blend and dissolve into the tea, the system begins to increase in entropy, because there are so many more ways for the milk and tea molecules to arrange themselves in this sense, rather than being stacked on top of each other. Continue reading

My Scottish Space School Experience

SSSLOGO_SMBonjour fellow bloggers and blog viewers, I just came back from a fantastic residential week at Scottish Space School and I just thought it would be great to share this great experience with you all.

The Scottish Space School, as I mentioned several months before in a “thoughts” post, is a residential week aimed at students in their second last year of high school who are interested in pursuing a career in Engineering, Space Exploration or something along these lines, and is situated in the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. This year I was one of the lucky 100 students to be selected from over 500 applicants based around Scotland to attend the week running from 11th to 16th June 2017.

The week-long programme included different engineering workshops, lectures from senior NASA guests, talks from people who worked in the Space industry, fun social events and many more.

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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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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

 

 

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

Discussing Time Travel

dfhshrshtsrLast post I did a short guide on Special Relativity and I briefly mentioned time dilation which touches on the concept of Time Travel. Time Travel, like Parallel Universes or Teleportation is something that at a glance seems improbable, “beyond the boundary of physics” and just a complete work of science fiction, but interestingly enough all three of these areas are studied in-depth within the field of physics.

Einstein thought about space as a piece of fabric and essentially called it the fabric of space-time. We can think about time as a dimension, like length and width and height, there is a temporal dimension. Time travel is simply our progression through this dimension and we are all time travelling at this very moment because we are experiencing the passing of time. Time travelling to the future is a crucial everyday task, and it happens more naturally than people may acknowledge.

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The Basics of Special Relativity

Albert Einstein is probably the most popular scientific figurehead in modern culture with his iconic messy hair and white lab coat. His image has been deemed by many people to be the stereotypical scientist. He is one of the favourite picks by young children to dress up for Halloween and his name is also a synonym of words such as “genius”. Additionally the very recent announcement of the detection of gravitational waves once again awakened people’s admiration for , however despite his immense popularity, most of the public have no idea what pioneering contributions he had made in the field of physics. Einstein’s breakthrough came from his work on Gravitation through his developments of two successful theories: Special and General theory of Relativity, with General Relativity becoming one of the two great pillars of modern physics, the other being Quantum Theory. In this post I will attempt to cover the basic concepts of Special Relativity.

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Parallel Universes #2 – Greene’s Classification of Multiverse types

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In the previous post I introduced the Many World’s hypothesis of Quantum Mechanics which is a possibility of parallel universe. Exploring possibilities of what types of parallel universes could exist may sound like science fiction however like time travel and teleportation, the idea of parallel universes is often the subject of mathematical and experimental investigation. In a recent episode of Star Talk, Michio Kaku mentioned the joy of trying to defy the impossible in his everyday job as a theoretical physicist.

The term parallel universes could seem vague and confusing to some. Exactly what is a parallel universe… Alternate timelines? An entire universe on its own outside the observable universe? Do parallel universes of all possible historical timelines exist? The matter is a little complicated. Physicists often use the words parallel universes to describe several different hypotheses of a number of possible universes outside our own combined to form something called the Multiverse. Hence the idea of parallel universes arises from the multiverse theory itself.

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