Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On that Presumed Alien Megastructure in KIC 8462852

KIC 8462852 - News broke out about this star with dramatic dip on its brightness, purposely caused by an alien megastructure(hypothesized by some to be a Dyson sphere).

Using Kardashev scale(a measurement model to determine a planetary civilization's technological advancement based on the usable energy requirements at its disposal), it is said that race who are able to harness the power of its entire star belong to a Type ll civilization(human race is a type 0 civilization). Either they suck up the power of parent star or that they make use of the hydrogen materials from a nearby star by an orbiting reactor of a truly immense scale.

Now, if the KIC 8462852 is some 1,500 lightyears away, then we have witnessed the phenomena 1,500 years ago. And that means that by now, most likely they have made a technological leap already from having to harness the power of their star into something else. Maybe they are already transitioning into harnessing the power of their galaxy(active galactic nuclei). So even if we direct our powerful telescope array into this star, chances are we might not be able to find anything.

Note that from the time we started using fire to the time we ventured into space only took a hundred thousand years, how much much from a Type ll civilization to explore other energy sources, which they can actually transition in an exponentially speedier manner and in a similarly smaller time scale.

A friend of mine(from the non-scientific community) suggested that why don't we jet go there an witness it ourselves. Well, the suggestion is as outrageous as the assumption that it might be driven by a Klingon-based technology(physicists don't put "alien" into an equation to resolve a certain phenomena). 

Provided that we use New Horizon as our interstellar ship as it is already hurtling into the far end of the Solar System, our vehicle is only traveling at 50,000 km/hr, then it would take us roughly around 27 million years to go there.  

Cryogenic sleep in a anti-matter fueled ship for interstellar travel, anyone? 

Photo used in this article is merely grabbed from the internet.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Liquid Water on Mars

When the news broke out that Mars have liquid water, I was often asked by my colleagues(from the non-scientific community) on what the ramification is. Well, it is the fact that liquid water is an amniotic fluid for life. But let me start by accounting the physics behind it. 

Liquid water on Mars was thought to be unlikely existing(at least that is how it goes for the last 3 billion years). And as far we see, considering the two culprits,1) thin atmosphere 2) extremely cold temperature and varies similarly extremely over similarly extremely short span of time, makes the liquid water impossible to exist for more than few hours. 

Not only that the atmospheric pressure to be less than 0.7% than that of Earth, the Martian dunes are frozen, and gets immediately dried up, bypassing liquid phase. On Earth, the atmospheric pressure is high enough such hat water will be in a liquid state under 270- 370 Kelvin(Earth's typical average temperature range), so water is abundant. But on Mars, the atmospheric pressure is somewhere between 0.6% and 1.0% than that of Earth, or between 100 and 150 times smaller. Mars is also much colder than Earth, so that these two factors combined means that there’s either never liquid water on Mars, and it goes from solid ice straight to water vapor when it gets warm (and back again when it gets cold), or it can be liquid water for a very narrow temperature range that only occurs very infrequently on Mars.

But the question is, has Mars ever possess that temperature in its entire existence? Perhaps not, but while the average temperature of Mars may have been different in the past, there was never a larger atmosphere and the temperature was never stable. So we infer, to some point, that Mars could never have had a stable ocean, river stream or any body of water for that instance; the best it could have was an ice-bed that melts during the day, and lucky enough not to boil, and suddenly evaporate. 

So it was a twist of thought process when NASA(from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data) announced(and confirmed) the discovery of liquid water on Mars. Not only did the red planet has a watery past, leaving us with a number of distinctive features that could only arise from liquid flowing on its surface, including dried-up riverbeds, martian spherules, dozens of layers of sedimentary rock, canyons that show evidence of being formed by water-based erosion, and frozen lakes, icecaps, and sub-surface ice. 

But we have already had a previous understanding to explain the physics of its planetary condition, so what could be the smoking gun for its trace mount of moisture and liquid water indications? Since there are hints of flowing water, could life have once sustained(or is currently sustained in the form of microbes) in Mars? But how come it has liquid water. The answer maybe staring us in the face. An antifreeze that is a common household ingredient, "salt". It's this briny substrate that will hold moisture in otherwise barren environment. 

So the question lingers, "could these briny, crusty pools potentially host primitive, Martian life?" It’s long been noted that the Martian terrain is similar to colder deserts here on Earth, and while large, multicellular life doesn’t appear to be the norm on Mars, single-celled, salt-rich life might still be extant today. If the microbes on Earth can evolve in the arsenic environments and volcanic vents, it will most likely thrive in a Martian water saturated with Magnesium Perchlorates(hydrated salts) which is a far less harmful than those of Earth's harshest living conditions. We haven't had any data about that as of yet. 

So let's keep abreast and see where the probe will lead us. 

Photos used in these articles are merely grabbed from the internet

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On Parallel Universe, Multiverse and Many Worlds Interpretation

One of the movies that stormed my senses so hard was the one with Jet Li entitled "The One"(the other perhaps is "Star Gate") that talks about him being an officer of a multiverse authority agency that polices interdimensional travel via wormhole, seeking to hunt down all variations of himself in alternate universes. But now, there are many of these multiverse science fiction stories being made, motion picture or comic books-wise. 

But where did this "Parallel Universe" and "Many-Worlds-Interpretation" concept come into existence in a scientific context? While other laws of the universe like General Relativity, particularly one that involves gravity, are predictive and deterministic(in other words, if we knew the positions and momenta of all the particles, and had infinite computational power, the properties of any particle an arbitrary amount of time into the future can be predicted), one can't say the same for Quantum Mechanics.  For example, in a Uranium nucleus, you very well know that it will decay after a given amount of time if you get a large enough sample of Uranium, however predicting properties of the larger ensemble is different than doing so for an individual particles and that there is also no way you can predict what any one particular particle will do. The same quantum weirdness and indeterminism turns up in other system. And that is just a Uranium atom, there are at least 10 to the 90th particles in our observable universe. So how many times did that one particle experience a quantum interaction with another? How many times did its position or momentum change? How many times did one particular quantum possibility happen for that particle, and hence, not the other possibilities? The answer is staggering. Each time a nuclear reaction takes place inside a star(something that happens maybe 10 to the 20th times each second in our Sun alone), a huge number of particles experience a quantum interaction. And if just one of these interactions had a different outcome, our Universe would be in a different quantum state than the one it’s actually in. 

In quantum mechanics, a particle’s property is defined by a wavefunction, and that function changes over time. While measurable data is a real thing and wavefunction is another, in our understanding of Many Worlds Theory, the wavefunction is definitely real, and so every time a “quantum decision” can be made, every quantum possibility happens somewhere, and what we experience in our universe is simply a path being chosen by one of these plurality of quantum possibilities. And if we want to be strictly mathematical about it, the cosmic inflation(10 to the negative 30th seconds) could have also produced 10 to the 10th to the 90th more or less worth of identical space, time and matter for it to happen. 

However the many-worlds-interpretation doesn’t require that Parallel Universes are real. The Parallel Universes are, in a conservative view, is simply just a visualization of what the wavefunction creates.

But there are some physicists who are putting together the huge amount of universe-spacetime created via eternal inflation and the many-worlds-interpretation model/effort to argue that Parallel Universes are real, and that for every "quantum realization" that occurs in our universe, there exists a real Parallel Universe where everything that ever occurred in our universe occurred also over there, except for that one difference.

And that difference is that in this another universe, I am an emperor. Or a rock star. Or perhaps I am the one who fused General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics and came up with one equation to all known laws of the universe. I am the one who read the mind of god. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Black Hole and the Information Paradox

Black Hole is my most favorite subject because it involves lots of spooky action, lots of calculative creativity(or creative calculation, depending on which side you're looking at).

We all know that Quantum Theory and General Relativity don't really mix well in a scientific cocktail. THEY DON'T AGREE WITH EACH OTHER. Quantum Theory was supposed to describe all physical processes of nature but does not very well good at predicting what will happen, rather just the probability, and you can only make sense of it, in the realm of science, when you add up all the probabilities, thus the sum should be equal to one. On the other hand, General Relativity only makes fuss about gravity. Unlike quantum theory, general relativity predicts exactly what will happen, and it says that what goes into the black hole never comes out(specifically when it reaches Event Horizon). According to general relativity, the information is stuck there forever(See? There is forever).

Now here comes the paradox which is a little challenging to the neural glands. It says that the black hole, surrounded by quantum fields, will radiate particles(Hawking radiation in the form of particles of zero or low mass particles, such as photons or neutrinos or gravitons) and shrink in size, and will eventually evaporate. Now if that were the case so, it violates quantum theory. Or maybe, this is a point where quantum theory changes? But since the information can't get out of the black hole, maybe the information is stored into the Hawking radiation? But it can't be so, rather than the possibility that it is being copied? But having two copies of information also violates quantum theory.

Now, some physicists propose a way to circumvent it using a concept of COMPLEMENTARITY(proposed by Leonard Susskind and folks), which states that information can be both inside and outside of the black hole, depending on one's perspective. However, this model is self-contradicting and requires a supplemental model called holography to be true as well. The idea is that the physics of the three-dimensional interior of the black hole, where gravity obviously plays a role, can instead be viewed, via a rather mysterious transformation, as physics just above the two-dimensional horizon, where it is described by two-dimensional equations that do not include gravity at all. Some physicists also conjectured String Theory(a quantum generalization of general relativity and may well be a candidate theory of all known laws of nature in the universe), which they said to be simply a quantum theory without gravity.

But as a black hole evaporates, complementarity itself runs into a serious paradox. If the outside observer sees evaporation occur without loss(or copying) of information, than an infalling observer crashes into something at the horizon whimsically called a “FIREWALL” where there wasn’t supposed to be anything. Another violation occurs, and this time it violates expectations from general relativity horrendously. It seems that if we were suppose to hinge quantum theory to be the sole description of the science behind black hole, general relativity requires a total overhaul. AGAIN, THEY DON'T AGREE WITH EACH OTHER, and there's no sign of String Theory coming to the rescue and bridging the mathematical divide. I am confused and so does everyone else. 

There are lots and lots of proposals as to how to get out of this conundrum but you’re not hearing about most of them, except for Stephen Hawking’s because of his sensational pop culture status similar to X-Men's Dr. Charles Xavier, but he’s really just one of many heads tossing around this idea. In fact, this is actually the nth time Stephen Hawking keeps on changing his stand about this. So Stephen Hawking didn't solve anything yet, he just propose a new model of understanding which is not yet what science is all about. Similarly, don't expect this equation to be solved within a 10year time frame. Perhaps not even 20 years.

Four Seasons Hotpot Buffet in San Miguel by the Bay, SM Mall of Asia

The last time I recall I had a grand steamboat experience was in Singapore, and although relatively affordable as compared to the mainstream Singaporean restaurants, my pocket was still aching and bludgeoned in a Singaporean dollar. 

Thankfully, we already have a local steamboat experience to boot. Four Seasons, is the newest hotpot haven in the metro, and is a brainchild of the famous Vikings Luxury Buffet group. 

With bright lighting fixtures, exuberant furnitures, and lavish design elements, the interior screams of a modern tapestry. This is probably one of the best hotpot dining sphere I have tried, with a vast swath of ingredients, a wide assortment of fresh vegetables, and an array of premium thin cut meats from beef striploin, top blade, shortplate, pork belly, jowls, and others. 

Let's what is up for gastronomic grab:

My plate.

BL's plate.

Our desserts. 

Our hotpot. a Chicken soup with Sate and a Vegetable soup with Chinese herb. I added some seasonings (secret) to make the taste richer. 

Four birthday celebrators in one astronomical fold, everybody's happy. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Surprise.. Surprise.. from the New Horizon's Pluto Flyby data

So I went to our monthly geeky sessions at the Exploreum at the SM Mall of Asia and the topic was all about the Pluto Flyby mission. 

I am not a planetary scientist, and unlike particle physics(which I eternally love), this large scale event might have slipped from my prodding. So here are what surprises me:

- Pluto has craters. Should I have expected it since it is residing at the brethren of the Kuiper Belts? 
- Pluto's already thin atmosphere is even thinner than previously expected. It's, in fact, 700 times thinner. Should I have also expected it because Pluto is primarily made up of Nitrogen, Methane and complex Hydrocarbons, perhaps, causing greenhouse effect on its atmospheric layers?
- Pluto's south polar region is darker than the north, which were previously thought to be uniform and boring!!!
- Non-uniformity of the Pluto's surface gave tantalizing hints of the possible activities underground. Should I have also expected this since a combination of thin atmosphere, no magnetosphere, methane possibly forming into liquid methane underground, may have excited carbon particles and consequently heats up the layer underneath?
- Pluto is not a dog
- That Pluto is nothing but a second rate, trying hard "trying-to-be-a-planet" object may never change despite emotional erosion brought by the excitement and hype of the flyby mission

New Horizon just ace us around 6% of the entire data collection, so keep abreast of updates and more wave of surprises to follow.  

Where have all the Heliums gone

I have come across a video of two gentlemen drinking a Helium-infused beer. I know just one guy who has the "alcoholistic quotient" and "geeky demeanor" combined to pull a stunt like this, who happens to be in Germany also.

Watch the video here:

Before you perform the same feat at home or show off a hilarious Mickey Mouse ingenuity in front of your pals, you may want to consider this:

Helium is so scarce on Earth and science badly need it. Today's proton colliders requires liquid Helium(because of its zero viscosity superfluid characteristics, meaning it will never come to rest or lose energy once in motion) to cool electromagnets. Perfect at a 4 Kelvin boiling point. 

So where do we mine Helium. 

Our exosphere contains five parts per million of Helium only, so we don't source it there. And besides, it won't stay in there forever. (We all know this in our school physics by calculating a fraction of the Boltzmann distribution that’s above escape velocity). The only way where we do it is to get it underground. The radioactive decay of heavy elements like Uranium, Thorium, Radium, and Radon, which has been there for billions of years(although it also took billion of years to decay)produces a first type of decay called "alpha decay" and the radioactive particles emit Helium nucleus. There are only 16 Helium mines in the world, and they are threatened to depletion, so let's make productive use of it before it runs dry. It will probably run short for the next 30-50 years, perhaps sooner. 

Helium is inert(is it a rootword for "introvert?") and non-recyclable. So you might want to ask: "Why has it become so scarce on Earth when it's the second most abundant element in the universe, Hydrogen being the first".

First, it has a very low molecular weight. Particles in a gas of uniform temperature roughly follow a particular probabilistic distribution of kinetic energies. A typical Helium atom has 1/7th the mass of a Nitrogen molecule, so Helium jostle about at roughly the square root of 7x the speed of Nitrogen. This is too fast for Earth to retain Helium over geologic time periods. 

Second of it being an anti-social element. It is a noble gas and does not bond chemically, unlike Hydrogen, to form compounds or heavier molecules.

Plaza Ibarra: An All-Occassion Venue

Plaza Ibarra has been one of the formidable event venues in the metropolitan Manila, having served close to a hundred events a year. They took events management to a whole new level, by offering a classical rustic-themed, Mediterranean-inspired design elements. 

Notice the Spiral staircase of the Sofitel Hotel's buffet? Plaza Ibarra has the similar embodiment, poised to give the celebrator's deserving limelight. It's in fact a fusion of garden and indoor ballroom, that incorporates the Hellenistic and urban setting. 

So when my wife's family friend invited us to grace into her daughter's venue, we simply couldn't say no. After all, they also didn't say no on the incredibly late announcement of our marriage. 

Let's round what they have for our gastronomic delight. 

Thank you Des for a wonderful evening and we're hoping the best for your lovely "the-baby-is-now-a-lady" daughter. 

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