Science Saturday Open Thread

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I was so proud of myself, finishing the next Science Saturday on Monday. This is a big accomplishment for me since I’m usually a big procrastinator.

Then some news broke. And now I have to write about an entirely new topic at the last minute.

Behold, the first picture of a black hole ever taken (as far as we know).

Thankfully my undergraduate degree is in Physics, so I know a bit about black holes. To understand them, you first have to understand gravity.

Gravity is one of the four fundamental forces, and is probably the one we’re most familiar with. As a force, it’s simply the attraction all things have to everything else.

You have gravity, and your gravity is pulling everything else in the universe towards you.

The amount of force depends on three things:

  1. How much mass the pulling object has.
  2. How much mass the pulled object has.
  3. How far away they are from each other.

The more mass, the greater the pull. The farther apart, the less the pull.

What’s interesting is that both objects exert the exact same amount of force on each other. So you exert just as much force on the Earth as it does on you. It’s just that the Earth weighs a lot more than you do, so the force you exert on it doesn’t effect it much.

You can see why the Earth’s gravity has much more effect on us than we do on it.

But let’s look at it from a different angle. Since the Earth is so massive, it sometimes helps to talk about gravity as though it’s something only Earth does. This is especially true when talking about sending rockets into outer space.

In this case you do a bunch of math and find out that there’s something called an escape velocity. If you reach that speed, you will escape Earth’s gravity, but if you don’t you’ll eventually fall back to the ground.

In theory you could throw a football so hard that it reaches escape velocity, but since it’s 25,000 miles per hour you’ll have a hard time doing that.

Sorry royalty free businessman, you’re not running fast enough to escape Earth’s gravity

This escape velocity applies to everything. The more massive the object, the higher the gravity, and the higher the escape velocity is. And since the speed of light is the fastest anything can travel, it begs the question.

Can you have an object so massive that even light can’t escape?

Part of the problem here is that gravity goes down with distance, so even as you add mass to something you can’t grow the size too much or else the gravity of the stuff in the middle becomes too weak.

To get to that point, you need a whole lot of stuff in a very small area. But that’s what a black hole is.

A lot of stuff in a very small area.

The subways in Beijing were so crowded I swore a black hole was about to form.

What’s interesting (and scary) about black holes is that since nothing can escape, it just sucks up everything around it.

One last point on black holes. You may have heard the term “event horizon”. If you get within that “horizon” of a black hole, escape becomes impossible.

This event horizon is important in knowing when a black hole forms. Technically anything that has mass has an event horizon, so if you squish it down far enough it will become a black hole. At which point it will begin it’s journey sucking everything else up and gaining mass.

Which means that if somebody discovered how to make a black hole from a small amount of mass, they could destroy the planet.

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Anthony Stratton

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BleedingRedAndGold

Since, if memory serves me*, someone mourned for a lack of controversy here, I’ll drop this tidbit in. Religions don’t account for 95% or more of the life that existed on this planet, not even near-humans (Neanderthal DNA lives on in a fair percentage of humanity, among others), but also cannot account for the proto-humans we arose from. Religion can’t explain that transformation from basically chimps to full-blown humans. Only science can. With religion, we were created from the very dirt itself, with magic.

pompano
pompano

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Clarke’s First Law:

Nasrani
Nasrani

Event Horizon would be a cool name for a metal band. Though I’m pretty sure (at least) one with that name already exists.

bds955
bds955

My 13 year old daughter and I enjoyed this read. Great convo with her on this ( daddy / daughter time ).

zulu trader
zulu trader

So glad we all have each other. Off season is HELL!

MasterChief
MasterChief

For realz!

probablyamistake
probablyamistake

Enjoyed the movie Interstellar, which was based on this subject. Really interesting premise, but the science is incomplete IMO. Scientists can tell us the effects of gravity, but as far as I know can’t tell us the source. Am I wrong, do they know the orangin?

probablyamistake
probablyamistake

By the way Tony, good read.

Dave B.
Dave B.

As far as we know gravity originated when the Universe did.

BleedingRedAndGold

Which rather begs the question that while we can “hear” the echoes of the Big Bang, so we know it happened and approximately when, where was all the mass-energy before it happened?

Science can’t answer that, just yet, but if/when we sort out what transpired for the first hour after the event, including the exact naqture of gravity, we’ll be ready to posit some possibilities.

Dave B.
Dave B.

They have a pretty good idea what happened up to one Planck time after the big bang.

tsv0728
tsv0728

I assume you saw that giant rocket reach escape velocity Thursday, and then proceed to return all 3 boosters back to terra firma? Exciting times in space science ahead with a rocket that can send 20tons to Mar for less than 100mil. Now if they could just get that Elon damned James Webb into the air! I guess they’ll wind up launching it on the SLS when it is finished in 2040.

pompano
pompano

I do find it amazing that one of the things implied/predicted/expected from Al’s gen rev theory has been conclusively proven.
It also seems that black holes are possibly necessary for galaxy formation.
The more we learn the more we find out how little we know.

BleedingRedAndGold

Was the Earth’s gravity strong enough to prevent the Pixabay image from reaching my computer? πŸ˜‰

Also, IIRC, micro-sized black holes have been created under artificial conditions, so there’s a size threshold when it comes to them being stable enough to exist on their own, so it’s unlikely that an experiment is going to accidentally create one large enough to swallow up the Earth. That’s an overblown 50s-style science-gone-horribly-wrong flick thing, like “Them”. Ants the size of motorcycles will never exist, because exoskeletons can’t support critters that size,per the square-cube “law”.

A Lunar Ting

Well…

zulu trader
zulu trader

so, the black hole being;Oakland. And, the small amount of mass would be the total collective brain power of all oakland faiders fans.. Does this mean they could destroy the world?

Dave B.
Dave B.

How in the hell are we supposed to turn this into a religious debate?

Anthony Stratton

[incendiary religious comment inserted here]

Tarkus

Oh, God.

Anthony Stratton

Its the Guy in the Sky and he’s driving a Tesla these days…

/runs

Tarkus

Elon Musk is God?

zulu trader
zulu trader

how dare you f**kin’ compare God to Elon Must

Tarkus

Damn.

Aplogies to Mr. Musk.

pompano
pompano

Not God, a god.

bds955
bds955

Easy, God created.

Tarkus

In theory you could throw a football so hard that it reaches escape velocity, but since it’s 25,000 miles per hour you’ll have a hard time doing that.

Unless your name is Patrick Mahomes, of course.