Thoughts and essays about music, physics, martinis and pretty girls.

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Name: Roger L. Smith
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Interests: Astronomy, Science,  Bicycle Racing, Music,  Photography, Tennis, and why...
Occupation: Computer Scientist, Software Engineer

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Martinis at Midnight

Sunday, January 16, 2005

solar flares, aurora, and huygens - oh my!

a couple days ago a major xclass explosion happend on the sun at sunspot 720. this sent a heap of sun junk (a coronal mass ejection or CME) our way. this sparked a nice little aurora tonight in west michigan. i could see nice spikey green rays shooting upward toward a single point directly over head. it was quite nice. i hope tomorrow night is clear again, we may be able to see more.

congratulations to the esa (European Space Agency) for successfully landing the Huygens probe on Saturn's moon Titan! i followed your progress minute by minute friday morning (eastern standard time) and was delighted to hear that the mission was a success. the pictures are awesome, and my hat is off to you.

for more information on the aurora and huygens, visit http://www.spaceweather.com/

Thursday, January 13, 2005

going to see the doctor (of physics)

yesterday i attended a lecture given by Dr. Brian Greene, professor of math and physics at columbia university. Dr. Greene is a leading authority on superstring theory and is the author of "the elegant universe" and "the fabric of the cosmos". he could also very well be my hero. he has an incredible wealth of knowledge and an uncanny method of sharing that knowledge.

yesterday's talk started off with quite a technical introduction given by congressman vern ehlers, however Dr. Greene quickly pulled back on the technical reins and began his lecture with a short humorous story about his mismatched socks.

Dr. Greene gave a concise hisory of gravity as described by Newton, and evolved that into Einstein's general theory of relativity. once again the concept of gravity was likened to a rubber sheet containing rocks and marbles. the funny thing about this analogy, is that the reason the rubber sheet warps in the first place is because of gravity. this is what we are trying to conceptualize... i've never heard anyone say that the reason space/time is warped around large masses is because the universe is expanding (which is what i suspect is happening).

Dr. Greene covered a lot of teritory in only an hour, so he didn't dwell on any particular subject for very long. he switched gears at this point and dove into quantum mechanics. he explained Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle with an analogy to a Chinese restaraunt, which i'm still trying to figure out. At any rate, Heisenburg said that we cannot know the exact location AND the exact speed of a particle at any one time. if you think about this long enough, you'll see that life at the quantum level is very unpredictable.

scientists have long tried to find a theory of everything that will bring together the very very predictable behaviours of gravity with the very very unpredictable behaviours of things that are extremely tiny. this is where Dr. Greene introduced String Theory.

he states that one explanation would be that everything is made up of tiny vibrating strings of energy. all sub-atomic particles are made up of a little piece of energetic string that vibrates in a particular way. each different particle has a string that vibrates in a unique manner. the catch here is that there are more particles than there are dimensions for these strings to vibrate in. Dr. G says "that's OK", "what if there were more dimension, maybe even as many as 10 spacial dimensions". he gave some examples and explanations describing how this could be.

if what he describes is even partially true, there could be a single explanation of how physics works within our universe.

personally i think Dr. Greene is on the right track, however i feel that there is a lot more to learn about the universe than what we can even dream about right now.

i am looking forward to reading his newest book "the fabric of the cosmos". i will certainly be posting articles with my thoughts, concerns and questions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

the fabric of the cosmos

it's been quite a while since i've posted and tonight seems like an appropriate time.

tomorrow i'm planning on attending a lecture given by Brian Greene, the autohor of The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Elegant Universe. The Elegant Universe has to be the most fascianting book i have ever read. i plan on reading The Fabric of the Cosmos in the very near future.

look forward to a post real soon describing Dr. Greene's lecture, or my attempt to attend the lecture.

also look forward to a post regarding the huygen's probe entering the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.


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