Will Wormhole Travel Ever Be Possible?

Science fiction’s favorite method for exploring the universe, most recently in the movie Interstellar, won’t be easy.

wormholeBy Loren Grush
As a curious species, humans have long dreamed of traveling to the farthest depths of space. That’s the major theme of the upcoming science fiction epic Interstellar, which will take Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to the places we hope to one day reach ourselves. Except for that tiny hiccup called deep space travel.

The universe is big. And along with its enormous size, it’s also incredibly spread-out; any neighboring planets, stars, and galaxies are depressingly distant. Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, for example, is 4.22 light years away. If the fast-moving Voyager spacecraft attempted to reach Proxima Centauri, it would take the tiny probe more than 80,000 years to get there.

So how are we supposed to explore the universe in a way that won’t take us thousands of generations? Among the many concepts researchers have devised, one technique has remained particularly popular, especially in the realm of science fiction: shortcuts, or theoretical tunnels known as wormholes….. Continue reading Will Wormhole Travel Ever Be Possible?

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The symmetry and simplicity of the laws of physics and the Higgs boson

Particle physics is like the Beauty and the Beast. The four fundamental forces are Beauty and the Higgs field is the Beast

Particle physics is like the Beauty and the Beast. The four fundamental forces are Beauty and the Higgs field is the Beast

Juan Maldacena
We describe the theoretical ideas, developed between the 1950s-1970s, which led to the prediction of the Higgs boson, the particle that was discovered in 2012.
The forces of nature are based on symmetry principles. We explain the nature of these symmetries through an economic analogy.
We also discuss the Higgs mechanism, which is necessary to avoid some of the naive consequences of these symmetries, and to explain various features of elementary particles…
Read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1410.6753v1.pdf

LOFAR discovers largest carbon atoms outside our Milky Way

carbonAn international team of astronomers under the guidance of graduate student Leah Morabito of Leiden Observatory has for the first time discovered the largest carbon atoms outside our Milky Way with the LOFAR radio telescope. In the future astronomers will be able to measure how cold and dense the gas around these atoms is that influences star formation and the evolution of a galaxy. The results are published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters on 28 October…. Continue reading LOFAR discovers largest carbon atoms outside our Milky Way

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An Exploration of the Limits of the Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution

The probability distribution of speeds is given in terms of the dimensionless variable x = v/vp, where vp is the most probable speed.

The probability distribution of speeds is given in terms of the dimensionless variable x = v/vp, where vp is the most probable speed.

Yi-Chi Yvette Wu, L. H. Ford
Selected aspects of the Maxwell-Boltzmann for molecular speeds are discussed, with special attention to physical effects of the low speed and high speed limits. We use simple approaches to study several topics which could be included in introductory courses, but are usually only discussed in more advanced or specialized courses…
… Read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1410.6965v1.pdf

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Observing Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays with Smartphones

Daniel Whiteson, Michael Mulhearn, Chase Shimmin, Kyle Brodie, Dustin Burns
We propose a novel approach for observing cosmic rays at ultra-high energy (>1018eV) by repurposing the existing network of smartphones as a ground detector array.
Extensive air showers generated by cosmic rays produce muons and high-energy photons, which can be detected by the CMOS sensors of smartphone cameras.
The small size and low efficiency of each sensor is compensated by the large number of active phones. We show that if user adoption targets are met, such a network will have significant observing power at the highest energies…
… Read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1410.2895v1.pdf

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Vampire Selfie: A Curious Case of an Absent Reflection

Top view of a person standing in an elevator while facing the door. (a) Rays originating from a point (O) on an object, reflected from a plane surface, form a virtual image at the apparent point of origin (I) of the reflected rays. (b) Rays originating from a point on an object, reflected from many irregularly oriented small facets, cannot be traced back to an apparent common point of origin, so no image forms. (c) If many points (O1, O2, O3, etc.) along the object are approximately the same color and shape, then the randomly reflected rays from these various points can appear to have a common origin (I) and form an image.

Top view of a person standing in an elevator while facing the door. (a) Rays originating from a point (O) on an object, reflected from a plane surface, form a virtual image at the apparent point of origin (I) of the reflected rays. (b) Rays originating from a point on an object, reflected from many irregularly oriented small facets, cannot be traced back to an apparent common point of origin, so no image forms. (c) If many points (O1, O2, O3, etc.) along the object are approximately the same color and shape, then the randomly reflected rays from these various points can appear to have a common origin (I) and form an image.

Joshua M. Grossman
During a recent ride in an elevator, I was startled by an observation. Once the door closed, the features on the back wall of the elevator were evident in a reflection on the door; however, my own reflection appeared absent . How could that be? What physics caused this curious phenomenon? The elevator had wooden molding, including horizontal strips that ran all the way around the back and sides . These horizontal strips were what showed up most clearly in the reflection. The door’s surface was brushed metal with the brush marks all running vertically. Therein lay the solution…
…Read more at scitation.aip.org