Whitman’s Sampler of Chocolate-Covered Physics

aaa Dining in Tuscany Tablescape002Before we begin, you should know that each blog  I write is edited, then analyzed by a group of people.  Most times I acquiesce to their suggestions.  This time, however, I’ve been seriously and soberly cautioned that the readers of today don’t have the attention span to make it through a longish blog…which this blog certainly is.  Apparently I don’t agree.

In my defense, think of yourself as having been invited to seven-course dinner in a charming home in Tuscany.  The dinner table is jammed to overflowing with strange-looking foods (ideas).  Take a nibble here, steal a couple of extra focaccia there.  You don’t have to clear the whole bloody table.  Each section below is discrete and tasty in its own way. But for heaven sakes, if you’re allergic to the truffles, leave em for the next guy!  Belly up to the bar.  Taste what you like and leave the rest.  I’ll never know…

This week, a little change of pace…a palette cleanser and a challenge.  I’m guessing that a whole bunch of readers, upon seeing the word,  PHYSICS   in a title, tentatively reach for the “get-me-outta-here button.”  That’s because most physicists (Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman excepted) couldn’t care less about engaging your brain. You’ve sorta trusted me so far.  Let’s crawl a little farther out on this shaky limb and see if we both survive the meal.

Here’s a chocolate-covered cherry of a physics breakthrough to kick-off with… though if you know someone you care about who’s colorblind, you are going to utterly blow their mind when you tell them.

aaa enchroma_cx_sunglasses_022315GLASSES that Enable Color-blind people to see the COLORS, after a lifetime of greys. This is pretty big news!!!  It’s not a joke.  It works.

You can buy a pair of sunglasses right now on Amazon that allows colorblind people to see color.  How amazing is that?  If you or someone you love has been gypped by nature and haven’t been able to see the colors in a sunset, autumn leaves…everything, go to the Amazon link below.  Read the reviews, the video and order these enabling glasses.  If you you aren’t 100% satisfied, send em back and get a full refund.  (I’m betting you or your loved one won’t send them back.)  Let me know how you make out. Here’s the link  http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/amazing-story-300-glasses-can-cure-colorblindness.   

richard-feynman-i-would-rather-have-questions-that-cant-be-answered-than-answers-which-cant-be-questionedBack-story on Physics    You and I were robbed in one category of knowledge that is actually one of the wildest and wooliest and most insane of them all.  It’s Physics.  Nobody taught it to you the right way…except ole Carl Sagan and the ultra big-daddy of physics: Richard Feynman.  Who?  He talked like Alan Alda, looked cooler every decade.  If you’re game, type his name on YouTube and watch one his lectures at Harvard or Yale.  He’s as good as it gets, funny and a master at distilling the seed of an argument so you can understand it. This is a WONDERFUL guy and a WONDERFUL  video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgJPjG4KJYQ

aaa kongKing Kong:  First day and I’m walking into my first physics lecture. We all sat down, braced for boredom.  Mr. Mathews hit the lights and flipped on the projector:  He then  played a scene from King Kong.  Kong had just stomped a few police cars like cigarette butts and was preparing to climb the Empire State Building like a jungle gym.

 I thought, “Huh?????”  A few minutes later Kong was lying dead on the street and Mr. Mathews flipped-on the lights.  He was smiling at us.  “Cool movie,” he said quietly, “but what a load of baloney.  Truth is, at that scale, Kong wouldn’t have even been able to stand up.  Godzilla either.  They would have crushed their bones just trying, because…” and then he began scribbling on the board.  “When Kong gets bigger, he gets taller, but he also gets wider, and he also gets thicker.  His weight goes up as a cube, three numbers multiplied together while the cross section of his bones only goes up as a  square.  In other words, very quickly, he’s too heavy to do anything but lie there and pant.”

Wave Machines:  On another day, with wave machines, our student team launched  a huge rogue wave from one end of the tank, attempting to sink Mr. Mathews’ plastic sailboat bobbing in the middle.  But Mr. Mathews sent out an identical wave that was  out-of-phase.  Just as our killer wave was about to demolish his sailboat, his opposite wave (trough) took it right out.  Killer wave hits Killer trough equals…calm sea.  Really?  I was in LOVE with physics.  Later on, it was people walking in trains and throwing baseballs while another train flies by.  It was just fun.    Are your eyes glazed-over?  No?  You’re reading about physics!!!  Bravo pour vous!!!

And Now another tidbit from the Whitman’s Sampler of Cool Chocolate-Covered Physics, new stuff that you may not have heard of but might save your ass.

aaa  lightning ls-218-specs-graphic2A Valuable Tip for my Male Friends whose Knuckles still drag (like mine) when it comes to the topic of hot cars, sports cars and motorcycles:  

SECRET: If you’re a lady, the next two paragraphs will put you ahead of 85% of the guys at a dinner party…best of all your husband.  That’s power: You’ll have the men hanging on your words.

Here’s the tip:   If the guy next to you at a stoplight gestures that he wants to race…first  roll down your window… and LISTEN.    If his car or bike isn’t making any noise, you will LOSE.  If he’s on a motorcycle…you’ll really lose.   The fastest production motorcycle just came out.  It’s called (appropriately) Lightning...a little in-joke because it runs on electricity, or more specifically, batteries.  Any motorcycle worth its salt today, has hundreds of moving parts, needs a tune-up and runs on gas and is loud.  The Lightning has, essentially ONE moving part in its motor, the armature, and is quiet.  Let me repeat that:  one…moving…part.  http://www.gizmag.com/lightning-ls218-review-ls-218/36470/

aaa Tesla-Logo

Beware of this emblem

What makes Lightning  and that pretty and quiet Tesla   sitting next to you kick your ass, is….ready for this?   It’s a teeny weeny little law of Physics.  Yes…   Your big, honkin’ 427 hemi, has to spool up to 6…8…10 grand, ten thousand rpm before it’s in the zone to produce major league horse power.  …An electric motor, however, develops maximum torque beginning at zero rpm.  Sounds boring but…translate that sentence and it means you are screwed, blued, and tattooed.

The Lightning and the Tesla are…gone and you are burnt toast.  For the guys, there isn’t even need for a shifter or a transmission.  That little battery motor has max torque (max grunt) at every rpm.  Is there any hope?  Yes, there is.  You can save face and turn the Laws of Physics to your advantage.  Here’s how.  When that Tesla challenges you…challenge ’em back and up-the-ante.   Yell this: “Race you to Miami, or Las Vegas,” (any city that’s far away).  Wager big…$10,000.  Those amazing, nasty batteries need time, measured in hours to recharge.  You’ll win the long-distance race.  Forget zero to 60.

aaa smartbulletDARPA Bullets…EXACTO  (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance): About a year ago, they improved sniper rifle bullets immensely.  From close to a half mile away, they put a cellphone in their sights and hit it…easily.  Ho hummm.

But then they turned a second cellphone sideways and shot at the thin edge from the same distance…and hit it.  Pull that cellphone out of your pocket and turn it sideways and imagine shooting at it from 500 yards.  But that’s not all folks:  DARPA, (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) which is the Darth Vader and Area 51 combined of USA technology, has just come out with DARPA Bullets.  Again, this isn’t a joke.  Let’s say you’re shooting at, say, a squirrel half a mile away.  And then, just as you shoot, the squirrel takes off and runs up a tree.  Without wire guidance or laser technology, the DARPA Bullet, adjusts to hit the now moving target.  Thank, or swear at the Laws of Physics.  If your enemy has the  technology, say your prayers…but say them quickly. Nasty stuff.  Fortunately the bullets cost $$$$$$$$$$$$,  Physics.http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2015/04/29/darpa-exacto-tests-demonstrates-breakthrough-in-self-guided-bullets/  

Win a Bar Bet!  (Then e-mail me and tell me how much you won.  Tipping is always in good taste.)

sugarspoonA teaspoon full of gold, one of the densest substances on Earth, weighs a handful of ounces.  For ten bucks, what does a teaspoon of neutrinos weigh?  (trick question?)  I’ll make it a multiple choice:  

A.  Just the weight of the spoon because neutrinos don’t weigh anything.  

B. 56 tons.

C. One hundred million tons.

D.  74 pounds.

Answer:  A teaspoon full of neutrinos weighs approximately 100 million tons.   That’s just …cool.  It also gives you a tiny inkling as to how much empty space there is between the components of atoms.  What we comprehend as an anvil is 99.999999999%+ empty space.  If the nucleus of an atom were a pea, its electrons would be circling about a football field away.   But this is just pablum compared to what is to come.  A hundred million ton teaspoon…who says the Laws of Physics don’t have a great sense of humor.?

Debunking a term that was spoon fed to us right at the beginning and it stuck:

aaa black-hole-imagesBlack Holes:  By the way, this one really, really tightens my shorts… Anyone who’s taken even high school physics is probably nodding right now.  To be kind and gracious, the person who coined the term black hole, was most likely attempting a metaphor.  Because of what it does: suck in and obliterate entire planets, suns, sometimes galaxies, it looked (sorta) like they were being sucked into a hole or whirlpool.  In most sci fi movies, that’s what you see, a swirling whirlpool, sometimes blue, sometimes black that works like a giant cosmic Electrolux vacuum cleaner.

Plain and simple, it ain’t that way.  A whole gaggle of movie folks conflated black holes with worm holes (a different and even more exciting animal) and then sent some notes to the special effects department.  You got gypped and our kids did, too.  Right from the start their brains are getting incorrect info.  A black hole, would better be named, a Super Massive Body because that’s what it is.  Call it that, or Mega-Mass, or BBMF (a coarse acronym you can probably deduce by yourself) or Mega-troid, Ultra-Mass.  Call it anything, but don’t call it a hole.  It’s the oxymoronic opposite of a hole.  This link puts things in perspective:  http://www.trueactivist.com/this-comparison-of-black-holes-is-stunning/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TrueActivist+%28True+Activist%29

aaa  quantumdownloadQuantum Entanglement:  This one sounds so incredibly boring and incomprehensible but it’s the exciting cherry atop the Laws of Physics Cake.   Richard Feynman once said, “If you think you understand Quantum Physics……you don’t understand Quantum Physics.”  (This is the fact that allows me to speak with such authority and enthusiasm.)

By the way, that statement still stands today.  Albert Einstein called Quantum Mechanics, “spooky physics.”  In truth, no one knows how or why quantum theories work…at all.  And yet about every device you’re typing on or holding up to your ear relies to some extent, upon quantum technology.  If you’re game, we’ll be tackling QE, Quantum Entanglement, very soon.  I promise you: only one very short equation just to show what it looks like.

What does QE promise?  It promises and delivers upon the huge nut that has so far been the gold standard of things not to be broken:  The speed of light.  More than that, QE at this moment, is the one and only possibility that might allow us to travel a thousand light years and survive.  More important than that…  QE whispers in the ears of scientists and physicists, “Hey guys…  You’re still in the shallow end of the pool.  There’s more…much more.”  If that bores you, I have a surgeon I can recommend who does a great job installing pacemakers.

aaa robotTiny Robots with Super Strength:   Imagine being handed a steel cable that’s attached to a huge whale and being ordered to drag it half a mile.  My own response would be, “Well…just shoot me.”  

Now, however, combine the Laws of Physics with…gecko feet (those little green lizards that crawl up the side of your scotch & water in Jamaica) and you have a robot that can do the equivalent of you dragging a Winnebago up the glass wall of Trump Tower.  Really…  I’m not exactly sure what we’re going to do with these little munchkin robots…yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be marvelous.  Maybe on these 200-story high-rises, you won’t have to dangle people off the roof and let them sway around as they wash windows.  Just give that robot a little charge of electricity and watch it scamper up the glass with their Windex bottle.  Physics is blossoming even as we communicate.  When you have a moment, check-out this You Tube;  http://youtu.be/yYYqXY3L2wc


aaa grapheneGraphene:  If you haven’t heard of Graphene yet, be prepared for a shock.  If there were a Science Olympics for technological breakthroughs, Graphene would sweep all the categories.

1. Graphene is now the thinnest material known to man.  A sheet of it is one ATOM thick.  

2.  Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel.  A sheet of it the thickness of Saran Wrap (about 12 microns) would hold an elephant…that’s standing on the tip of a sharpened pencil…and it wouldn’t even pierce the sheet.

3.  It can be opaque…or transparent.  

4.   A cubic inch of it would spread out over four football fields. 

Conductivity:  Graphene has a current density one million times better than copper.  Improvements to batteries, solar cells, improvements in computer capabilities and speed that will be orders of magnitude better than today.

What’s most amazing of all is the cross-over capabilities.  Speakers and hearing aids with ultra response,  condoms that not even King Kong could break, parachutes just got waaaay smaller, thinner and drastically stronger.  A Graphene parachute could fit in your pocket. A Graphene parachute that could safely lower a 747?  It’s doable…and…should a terrorist shoot that parachute with a machine gun or a rocket, Graphene doesn’t tear.  Race car bodies,  hyper-sonic jet fuselages…wings.  Air bags that could encompass the whole interior of a car.  Physics boring?  Bite your tongue.  http://www.ibtimes.com/what-graphene-5-incredible-facts-about-miracle-material-you-need-know-1399503


aaa Star_Trek_Bird_Chasing_Enterprise_freecomputerdesktopwallpaper_1920Closing with a Delicious Physics Twinkie:   I love the Star Trek movies and the sci fi spin offs.  But…ole Gene Roddenberry played fast and loose at times.  When Picard or Kirk are trying to outdistance the Romulans or Klingons, you often see the two ships, and one looks to be about a mile and a half behind the Enterprise and closing at about 35 mph.  Then Capt James T. Kirk gives the command to accelerate to Warp Factor 9 instead of Warp Factor 8……. and you see the Enterprise start to pull ahead a little.  Cogitate on this.  The second they increase from Warp 8 to Warp 9, the Enterprise wouldn’t be in the next county, it’d be 186,000 miles away…five seconds later, over a million.  This isn’t a Camaro chasing a Mustang.  And yet, I still watch.

Yeah, physics can sound boring…but it isn’t.  It’ll kick your ass at a stoplight grand prix or it’ll allow the colorblind to see color…  It may someday save an airliner with a strange parachute that brings it uneventfully to the ground. Graphene is right now on the cusp. Five years from now…the world will be much, much different.  And if someone is tracking you with DARPA bullets, say your prayers…only say ’em fast.


P.S.  This doesn’t even moisten the nano-tip of your toenail that you dangle into the vast ocean of fascinating new stuff that is out there, using the good ole boring Laws of Physics.


4 Responses to "Whitman’s Sampler of Chocolate-Covered Physics"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    Hello Henry:

    It wasn’t too long and it sure wasn’t boring. I didn’t know that much about Graphene. Thank you!

    Dawn S.

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Dawn!
    When I think of Graphene, I keep remembering a line from “The Graduate” when the father whispers into Dustin Hoffman’s ear. Plastic. Graphene is much much more. Can’t wait till they get the price down.

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    Hello Henry,
    My husband has been color-blind since childhood. I’m sending away for those glasses as a surprise. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
    Sally J.

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    You just made my day, Sally. Let me know how it turns out. The reviews were heart-warming. One guy looked at the sunset and started weeping. …..I wonder how it affects the vision of a normally sighted person.

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