Friday, 30 January 2009

The Beauty of Mathematics

"To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature ... If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in"
-Richard Feynman

"Mathematics is the unshaken Foundation of Sciences, and the plentiful Fountain of Advantage to human affairs."
-Isaac Barrow

As those above rightly put it, nowhere is the beauty of mathematics more evident than in a mathematical equation. 

The most incomprehensible thing about this world is the fact that it is comprehensible. Take life for example. Life exists due to chemical reactions and processes of extreme complexity, the perfect properties of elements. Take the behaviour of an object as it falls towards the earth; the behaviour of objects as the near the speed of light, the wave-particle duality of matter and radiation. All of these and many more display complexity of mountainous proportions. Yet with the scientific method, all these concepts can be broken down and expressed completely in terms of a concise group of facts and a beautiful mathematical equation. 

Whenever we talk about math only numbers come into the mind of most people. What these people don't realize is the fact that there is much more to mathematics than just numbers. The connections beetween numbers and nature is subtle and mind-blowing. Take the ratio of phi, which is approximately equal to 1.6180339887.

The occurence of this ratio in nature is too frequent to be ignored. The ratio has been found to be expressed in the arrangement of leaves on tree branches and the veins in the leaves. The ratio has also been found in the skeletons of animals and the branchings of their veins and nerves,  the proportions of chemical compounds and the geometry of crystals, even. The Golden Ratio is seen to be operating as a universal law.

Many such mathematical constants exist in this world, such as:

  • Pi= ~3.142
  • The Universal Gravitational Constant= 6.67 x 10^-11
  • e=2.718 

et cetera, et cetera....

The existance of such constants and the subtle connections they have with each other leads me to believe that this universe and mathematics are deeply interconnected. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Parasite

Like the trap of a forest spider,Like the treacherous patch of quicksand,The dangerous lure of the parasite,
Draws in victims,
Slowly but surely,

The parasite waits, like a crouching tiger,
In the guise of an innocent flower,
That masks the venomous serpent,
Coiled, ready to strike.

The trap is sprung, unwittingly perhaps,
But the parasite has gained a foothold,
Too late it is, to realize,
All that glitters is not gold.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Definition of Life

For years, scientists have tried to accurately and properly define life. They have been anything but successful. The definitions that are generally used are based on what life on Earth looks like.

However recently scientists have been forced to find a new definition for life. Life on Earth is carbon based. Carbon displays one very special property. It can catenate. Catenation is the property of an atom by which it can form  long chains by varying the number of electrons that are shared in their covalent bonds. This enables carbon to  combine with hydrogen and oxygen to form organic moleculed with extremely complex structures. 

According to scientists, there is another compond which could possibly serve as a base for life: Silicon. With an atomic mass of 28; an atomic number of 14, scientists say that Silicon based life forms could develop given the right circumstances. But it would be life in slow-motion. Silicon forms stronger bonds with other atoms and the reactions that take place could be so sloe that we might not even recognise it as life if we saw it.

Another interesting thing is that computer viruses also display some of the characteristics of life. They can replicate themselves and move from PC to PC through the internet. They use up memory on a computer chip to 'live'. This might strike some people as going a bit too far with imagination but the theory certainly has a logical side to it. We define life as we do becuse we are used to seing living, breathing creatures on earth. But the first step to discover Extra-Terrestrial life is to broaden our perspective. What a pity it would be if we discovered a planet with ET and failed to recognise it.

But is there really anyone out there? The question remains......   

The James Webb Space Telescope

Given Below is an artist's impression of The JWST

 The James Webb Space telescope is a space observatory which 'sees' in the infra-red spectrum. It is to be the successor of the famous Hubble Space Telescope. It is an  international collaboration between NASA, the Canadian Space Agency  and the European Space Agency. The Collaboration is led by NASA.

The launch of this telescope is scheduled in 2013. Light based telescopes can see very far into the universe, provided they are pwerful enough. But their range of vision is limited by interstellar dust and clouds of gas. Being able to see in the infra-red spectrum is a big advantage to astronomers. Infra-red radiation, unlike light is able to pass through these clouds of dust and gas and will enable the telescope to obtain photographs of greater detail and clarity. 

The JWST will be placed in one of the special Lagrange points. At this point, the JWST will orbit the Sun with the Earth and Moon behind it at all times. This is to reduce infra-red radiation interference from the sun. The telescope also has a shield which shields it effectively from any radiation coming from the Sun and keeps it at a constant temperature of around 40 Kelvin(-233.15 degrees C). This is to ensure that the telescope's own IR radiation does not interfere with the sensitive instruments. The time taken for the orbit will be one year(Same as that of Earth). 

The telescope is expected to stay in service for atleast five years.

King Richard III

This is the book I will be using in my Literature classes. Usually I am unable to decipher Shakespeare's unique combination of prose and verse. 

Either this book is written in a style different compared to his other books or my vocabulary has increased in the 1 year that has passed without me reading any of Shakespeare's works, because I find King Richard III Much easier to understand than any of his other works. Of course I have read the abridged versions of his books, but I prefer unabridged versions of books because the editors usually add in their own interpretations and analyses of the story which can leave the reader with the wrong impression of the writer.



Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Time Paradox

Whenever the talk of time travel occurs, a phenomena that is sure to be the topic of discussion in the trusty time paradox. A time paradox is explained by the most common example: the "Grandfather Paradox". In this paradox you go back in time to kill your own grandfather and hence you wouldn't exist in the future and so you wouldn't have been able to go and kill your grandfather........(The sentence runs off as much as the effect does.). This explanation was invented to explain some of the concepts of time travel that we did not quite understand.

In my opinion the time paradox does not exist. We cannot change the past. If in the future I go back to change the past in some way, then we are already feeling the repercussions of my actions. If I go back I've already been back. This leads to the one definite statement: We cannot change our past or present, we can only change our future. But however if we do an action in the past which affects my going back to the past then we go into another parallel universe in which the results of our actions can happen. 

That is another implication of time travel. It implies that there are many millions of parallel universes in which the many million possibilities of that could happen, happen. In the case of the grandfather paradox the person who kills his grandfather is transported to another universe in which this twisted reality can happen. At least that is my understanding.

There are many methods of time travel that exist only in theory.On very radical theory is the transport of information through wormholes or space shortcuts. Any objects with mass cannot travel faster than light or at the speed of light. So they cannot travel through wormholes unharmed. The idea is to send streams of information through this wormhole to beam ourselves to the past. We convert ourselves into a stream of information that the time tunnel will reconstruct into our bodies at the end. According to theory information cannot be destroyed as it travels through the time tunnel or wormhole.

Another method involves using circular beams of high energy lasers to bend the space-time fabric. According to Einstein, sapce and time are closely related, interwoven and interlocked like a fabric. If space is bent enough it will warp time with it allowing us to slow down or speed up time.

The world of science is interesting indeed....

Monday, 12 January 2009

Time Travel

There is a long lasting debate on the subject of time travel. Is it possible? The truth is, no one is very sure. The most common arguement against it is the principle of mass and time dilation. According to Einsteins well known Theory of Relativity as an object approches the speed of light, in addition to its relative time get slower, its mass tends towards infinity. It is represented by the equation M = m/((1-(v^2)/(c^2)))^0.5, where v is the speed of the object(m/s), c is the speed of light(299792458 m/s), m is the rest mass of the object and M is the imcreased mass of the object.

It is obvoius from the equation that as the speed of the object approaches c M tends to m/0 which is infinite. However this is not the only way to warp space and time as some Physicists have discovered. Einsteind said that space and time are closely related. It is something like a fabric in fact closely interwoven. So if in any way we are able to bend or warp space we would also be creating a loop which could lead to the past or the future. A Physicist called Ronald Mallett is investigating the possibility of warping sapce-time withe the help of high energy lasers. He hopes to experiment on subatomic particles with very little lifespans. If the time machine works it could manifest itself in the lengthening of the lifespan of the particle by beaming the particle into the future.

The possiblities of time travel may be just beyond our reach.............