Expanding Our Minds: The Science Behind the Expansion of the Universe

You’ve probably heard of the name Hubble before. “Hey, isn’t that that big telescope that’s out in space taking pictures of the universe?” And, you would be right if you did ask such a question. But, like many things that are named and sent to space, these names have a meaning. The history of the name Hubble in our modern world begun with one man, just like you and me, called Edwin Hubble.

Edwin Hubble, the pipe smoking legend himself. Sourced from Spacetelescope.org

Hubble was a noble man. As a WWI veteran who was born in Missouri, he simply went on to pursue his passions. His fate with physics, however, was not coincidence, as he earned a full scholarship to the University of Chicago and worked on Robert Milikan, who would later go on to win the Nobel Prize for his quantization of the electron via his oil-drop experiment. Surprisingly, Hubble ended up graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in Jurisprudence. For the 99.9% of people who are unsure of what this degree is, it is simply a degree in the philosophy of law. Despite this, Hubble returned to the university to get a degree in astronomy and was later recruited to be part California’s Mount Wilson Observatory.

Mount wilson
California’s picturesque Mount Wilson Observatory. Sourced from the LA Times.


It was in this observatory that, while studying galaxies Hubble noticed something interesting. Hubble discovered that galaxies were moving away from each other. But, this movement was not random at all, but instead at a linear rate. Let me explain this by using arbitrary terms. Let’s say that there is a galaxy called “A” that is x kilometers away from us. Now, let’s say there is a galaxy “B” that is 2x kilometers away from us. x can be any value, but it’s value does not matter. What does matter is the fact that B is 2 times further away from us than A is. Therefore, since B is two times further away than A is it will appear to be moving away from us twice as fast as galaxy A is moving away from us. Edwin Hubble and his colleagues published this data, resulting in a revolutionary look at space and the universe itself.

From his observations, we coin the term of Hubble’s law and the Hubble constant. Hubble’s law shows how recessional velocity (the speed at which something is moving away) increases linearly the further away it is. The Hubble constant is simply the slope of this line. sourced from GCSE Astronomy (for all you Brits out there).

From this data we get the Hubble Law. Hubble’s Law simply states that the further away something is in space the faster it will appear to be moving away from us. From this we also derive the Hubble constant, which is this constant rate at which recessional velocity seems to increase as distance increases. Note, however, that this regards things not in our solar system that we are gravitationally locked to. This means that other things in our solar system, like the Sun and the planets, as well as other things in our galaxy, will not appear to be moving away from us because we are gravitationally locked with them. If this boggles you, think of it like this: every galaxy is in a car that is moving away from the other. If we welded those cars together, then they would still be moving, but moving together. Similarly, everything in our galaxy moves with the other, so this is not something you would see in the Milky Way.

The second thing to note is that these galaxies are not moving on their own accord, because according to the Hubble Constant at some point things really far away will appear to be moving away from us faster than the speed of light! However, this does not break physics, because the movement is caused by the expansion of space. Think of it like relaxing on top of a giant sheet of putty. If you pull it, you are not causing the motion, but rather the putty is. Similarly, the galaxies are not causing this motion but is a result of being carried away by the space under them. Since space is not matter, it does not violate any rules travelling faster than the speed of light or at any speed in general.

cosmic expansion
Space expansion illustrated. Sourced from Quora.

The second thing that is extremely important to point out is that the expansion of space does not create more matter, but rather just creates more space. This space is simply nothingness, so creating more nothing violates no conservation laws, including the conservation of energy or matter.

The most important thing to take away from this is that the universe is vast and continues to grow. As we try to learn more about space and space travel things are getting further away from us, and as the years go by feasible intergalactic travel becomes much more of an issue if we’re traveling by conventional distances. If humans truly want to explore the galaxy, we need to find a way to travel vast distances in short amounts of time. Maybe the answer lies in unlocking extra dimensions or other means, but the important thing to end with is that you, yourself, can ponder this and study this and one day profoundly change how we view things. Hubble was a simple man from a simple town and ended up profoundly changing the way we view space. Today there are so many astronomers that are tweaking Hubble’s predictions concerning the expansion of space. Even more, Hubble has inspired many with his work, including me. Whether or not astronomy is your inspiration, do not hold back. Take days to think and write and ponder, because only then will you be inspired to do something that you love and something the world will find amazing. Keep looking up.

Image sourced from Heavy.

Featured image sourced from The Astronomy Cafe.

An Answer to the Fermi Paradox: Elon Musk’s Simulation Theory

The Fermi Paradox. A now commonly known claim made by Enrico Fermi (famous physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project A.K.A. the first nuclear bombs) while he was having lunch with a few colleagues. While the Fermi Paradox is less of a paradox and more of an argument (if you want more proof, The Space Perspective proves this is not a paradox using the Drake Equation), it does make an interesting postulate as to why we have not yet observed any signals or messages from alien civilizations.


Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi, one of the lead scientists on the Manhattan Project and winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for the creation of the first nuclear fission reaction. Sourced from Atomic Heritage Foundation

While many theories float around the internet about the possible answers or reasons why Fermi’s postulations are correct, one comes from an individual many look to as the face of space travel and humanity itself: Elon Musk.

Elon Musk himself is not a doctor of physics nor a philosopher. In fact, professionally he has two bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Business, respectively. But, Elon Musk has many a time gone on television and other outlets to express his ideas and allow the world to know exactly what he thinks. Whether the world would have listened just as intently if he had finished his PhD program versus becoming the serial-entrepreneur he is today is up to interpretation. Anyway, my short aside about Musk’s and society’s focus on celebrities ends in this paragraph.

To sum up the point, Elon Musk theorizes that we are most likely living in a simulation. This fact alone automatically brings up the idea of robots and automated society, but the reality of it is that as humans we make our own simulations every day in a variety of aspects. Look at laboratory experiments, where rats are subject to an environment that is supposed to simulate a certain condition for the sake of academic endeavor. Look at car manufacturers who originally test their cars on closed-course tracks in order to test for a variety of different malfunctions and conditions which may affect their product. Simulations are prevalent in human life and are not just encoded in our binary devices.

A twitter post by Elon Musk about the interview where he explains his simulation theory. If you are an avid Elon Musk lover and views his ideas as purely gold, I suggest you follow him on Twitter. For those that are a bit more grounded, note that this image was sourced from SeekingAlpha

In fact, the simulations that are described by Musk are ambiguous in their detail. Yes, the interview does note that AI running simulations and more-intelligent beings running simulations is probable, but there is another idea about seeding different galaxies in order to promote life. What if the reason why we have not heard any signals from other alien civilizations is because we are simply a well-kept scientific experiment? In a world where an advanced civilization has mapped the entire Milky Way but found no other evidence of life, is it possible that they chose to put microorganisms from their home on Earth to begin breeding life? Did they chose such a habitable planet, with a gravity that could overcome by rockets, knowing that we would one day advance into a space-traveling race? In other words, is Earth simply chosen by design out of any other planet in our solar system?

Another question that this brings up is how many simulations could possibly exist? Is this a simulation that the aliens cared to track for the millions of years life took to develop for educational purposes? And are we still being tracked? I know that some of you out there view this as farfetched, but Elon Musk is not the only one to propose life coming from outer space. Stephen Hawking also proposed that Earth may have gained its life via panspermia, a phenomenon that states that extremophiles riding on asteroids that end up hitting Earth. But then this beckons the question of where did that other life come from…

How panspermia occurs. Sourced from Curiosity

Going back to Elon Musk’s theory, then we must say, “Well, if these aliens are observing us, how have we never observed them?” And the answer to that may be that they are using a communication method we cannot detect yet. Maybe, once we do, they will obliterate us. Or maybe, we will be allowed to coexist peacefully with them after they explain that the population of life on Earth was all a simulation of theirs. More importantly, however, is to note that the organisms they used to populate Earth most likely came from their home environment. Depending on how life develops, we may just look just like them. They could be living among us, observing at this very second. Or, they could be in the shadows, only coming down to Earth when needed. And maybe, when they come down from Earth, certain cultures view this as the arrival of an omnipotent being. Maybe the idea of a messiah in many religions is simply based upon the arrival of an advanced being that we misinterpreted. Or it is a test of theirs to see how far and what kind of far-fetched stories we will create to explain the existence of something we cannot understand. Note, I am not trying to debunk any beliefs, but rather provide an explanation as to why the messiah motif is so prevalent in many religions and our beliefs and provide evidence for the possibility of Elon’s theory.

There are so many questions that are left unanswered by the Fermi Paradox, and while Elon’s simulation theory may help explain why we have not heard from other civilizations (at least if we extrapolate it a bit), it still leaves much unanswered and much to wonder. But, the reason why these theories and conversations and equations are made is for us to think, dream, and explore. So much of space is not understood and we have so much more to learn about all facets of life. Providing a basis for curiosity is not meant to be taken with great criticism, fear, or frustration, but is an inviting invitation into the boundless realm of idea and initiative. That, itself, I think is the beautiful outcome of all of our unanswered questions.

Keep looking up! Sourced from The Odyssey

P.S. If you’d like to see the entire interview with Musk about his theory you can find that here.

Also, if you want a more concrete and visual explanation of what the theory means, you can find that in a beautifully illustrated video made by Vox.

Featured image sourced from Gizmodo

The Space I Take Up: How Much of it Will I Get to Know?

Space. There is quite a bit of it. In the room I live in, there is 264 sq ft of it. On Earth, there is 196.9 million sq miles of it. But in space, it is seemingly infinite, or at least so it seems. With the Hubble constant still undetermined, and the shape of the universe undetermined, it seems as though the universe can go on forever. Or maybe, the universe is a conical shape and is expanding conically. With this theory, one could travel in a straight line and end right back up in their original destination. In actuality, this process would take many billion years to prove if it can physically be proven at all, and that is if our probes are travelling at exactly the speed of light.

shape of the universe
These are three theories on what the shape of the universe may be. The top one is what I described, the middle one is similar to a bent sheet of paper, and the bottom image represents an infinitely expanding plane. Sourced from Space.com

I suppose what I am trying to say is that so many questions exist that still not have been answered in my lifetime and may never be answered in my lifetime. Heck, just two years ago (2016) the existence of gravitational waves was confirmed by LIGO, VIRGO, and all others organizations that work in unison just to detect gravitational waves. There exist so many mysteries concerning the properties of these gravitational waves, but so many other mysteries exist as well. What is dark matter, and why the proportion of dark matter to baryons (normal particles we can see) high enough that it allows for galaxies to uniformly rotate? Do other dimensions exist in the universe? What other properties besides Earth-like properties should we be looking for when attempting to detect the presence of a possible alien-civilization?

Most importantly, where is the support to answer these question?

This is what it looked like when the first gravitational waves were detected. The technology created to do this can detect movements less than the size of a proton. It’s an incredible effort and a reason why more people should not be afraid of science. But this is a topic for another day. Sourced from Wikipedia

On a talk that famous astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson had with Sam Denby, a popular education Youtuber and mind behind Wendover Productions, he discussed how the incentive to go into space will come from commercial industry. He says that the most exciting and interesting quests that humans have at the current moment, such as colonizing Mars and sending more probes into deep space is only possible as a vanity project for a couple of billionaires to fund. You can go ahead and watch this talk here. Beyond the talk, he brings up a good point about the current state of space travel and space expenditure: economics.

To access space one must understand the fundamentals of supply and demand. The macroeconomic concept is simple: as the demand for some type of product or service increases, the supply of that product or service increases. Now, note that demand doesn’t solely or simply depend on public demand for a service or product. Rather, the demand has to be money backed and the public has to be willing to fund the purchase of the product or service that is in demand.

supply demand curve
This is the supply and demand “curve”. It basically shows that as demand increases supply will increase. The point where they intersect is a market equilibrium, where the supply and demand are sustainable. Anything above this point is considered a surplus, and anything below is a shortage. Sourced from everyone’s favourite website, Chegg.

I would also like to note that the curves aren’t like conventional x and y curves. You can have high demand (all the way to the right) and low supply (all the way to the left in the yellow). If you would like to learn more about this economic concept, I highly suggest you watch this video by ACDC economics teacher, Mr. Clifford.

But, now you ask, why do I include the economics lesson? Because it is important to convey that the current future of space is not just dependent on the public’s desire to explore the outer reaches of the universe, but rather the demand that is encapsulated by those that have the millions and billions of dollars to pay for what seems to me as vanity space explorations. I don’t want to sit here and bash the commercial space industry. Rather, I would like explain the caveats that exist within it.

One of the more prominent companies that is responding to existing demand for cheaper access to space is SpaceX. SpaceX itself is involved in sending satellites and different technologies for the government utilizing their Falcon and, recently, the Falcon Heavy rockets. SpaceX has done well in reducing the cost of launching rockets carry some kind of payload into space. However, Elon Musk has noted that the ultimate goal of SpaceX is colonize Mars. Moreover, as soon as he significantly reduces the cost of launching rockets, he’s is planning on using them for intercontinental flight.

SpaceX’s proposed intercontinental transportation rocket. Sourced from BBC.

Another company that is making a significant impact in this space is Bigelow Aerospace. You may not have heard of this company based out of the Nevada desert, but their goal is to create livable and sustainable inflatable space habitats that will be much more cost effective than the current materials being used on the International Space Station. In fact, in 2016 they launched one of the inflatable prototypes to test as a viable living and laboratory environment. Bigelow’s current plans are to create commercial space stations, or “space hotels” in which individuals go to space for tourism. In the far future they plan on incorporating these inflatable habitats to withstand the environments of other worlds such as Mars.

The concept for Bigelow Aerospace’s Commercial Space Stations, a.k.a. Space Hotels. Sourced from Business Insider

I don’t mean to overload with information, but the information provided is essential to understanding my point. There is so much about space that we do not know and cannot know because there is little tangible demand and funds to support efforts to explore deep space. Today, we hear news stories about SpaceX’s successes and companies that plan on flying us into space and allowing us to be tourists in our own orbit, on the Moon, and maybe on Mars. I believe that it is good that the public is captivated with space, but I think that we are misleading the public with the potential to experience space for ourselves.

We are selfish beings and our biology wires us this way. The potential for the masses to believe that they can see space for themselves, with their own eyes is tantalizing, but I think is too tantalizing. Companies like SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, and many other organizations are capitalizing on capturing the public’s attention by giving them the vision of being able to experience what I believe are vanity services. Yes, the technologies we will develop along the way will help us reach out further into the deep unknown, but at the same time I believe we are coming to an era of space exploration where we are dreaming too close. We admire these marvels of technology that bring us physically closer to space, but I think it is essential for us to remember our roots.

In our short history, our ancestors had many unsolved questions that were answered with observation and the ability to ponder for long periods of time. Today, society functions at the whim of the economy, leaving little time for philosophers. I am afraid we are reaching a point where looking further into space will only happen when people demand to physically go further out. I am afraid this is reducing our ability to learn more about the heavens and understand before we begin to talk about venturing out of Earth. I am afraid that we have turned marvels of machinery into goals that we idolize. I think it is good for us to remember that our roots began with naked eye observations and pondering to understand the heavens. Only when we understand can we truly approach something and be greatly successful at it. If we fail to follow these simple steps, we will encounter great difficulties: difficulties we will overcome, but avoidable consequences.

Do not view this as an attack against large corporation, but rather a call to shift our vision from the myopia of what we may see one day to a cerebral vision of what we may learn. Knowledge has and always will be our greatest asset. Let’s not squander it.

hubble 2
Image sourced from European Space Agency (ESA)

Featured image sourced from the European Space Agency (ESA)

The Real Geo-Storm: Saturn’s Hexagon

Saturn. The only planet that people are able to clearly point out that has a large ring going around it. Ask any elementary school-aged individual and they will tell you that the only thing they know about Saturn is that it is that “big planet with the ring around it.” The reality of this is that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all have rings around the planet, they are just not as prominent as Saturn’s. However, the ring I wish to talk about today is not external. Heck, you may not even call it a ring. The one I talk about is the hexagonal storm ring that exists in Saturn’s north pole.

During the Voyager mission in 1981, as Voyager 1 passed by Saturn, it discovered something peculiar. On Saturn’s north pole region exists a previously blue but now golden hexagonal cloud pattern. The speculation in the color change may be a result of sunlight more directly being shone on the hexagon.

The hexagonal cloud pattern is comprised of a giant hurricane in its center and several smaller vortexes that whirl within it. You can see from the image below that one of the larger vortexes spins clockwise, while the hurricane and the hexagon itself spins counterclockwise.

Saturn hexagon moving
Looking near the bottom of the picture, you can faintly see a large vortex rotation in the opposite direction of the large hurricane. Imaged sourced from NASA.

This storm baffled researchers when it first discovered by Voyager, and so NASA re-imaged it in 2006 during the Cassini spacecraft mission. I’m sure that it is baffling to you as well, as the weather man has never shown you a giant hexagon that is about to destroy the entirety of Florida (I know that, when taking geometry, some of nightmares involved geometric shapes threatening my life). So the question is, why is Saturn the planet that proves our geometry teachers right when they say to us, “polygons and geometry can be found all throughout nature?”

It turns out that this hexagonal shape is caused by an eastward jet stream that is traveling at over 200 mph (miles per hour). But then you may say, “well, still, why is it a hexagon instead of a circle or an oval?” Lucky for you, physicists have decided to model this using computer simulations in order to understand the behavior. It turns out that, as long as certain initial conditions are met, such as initial amplitude, curvature of the jet, temperature gradient, and seasonal stability, a storm that is moving fast enough and has several interacting storms and rotation bodies will produce a hexagonal shape. For this large hurricane interacting with other jet streams and moving bodies, it is the most stable shape in nature, and thus beautiful. There is a wonderful graphic below that shows the many different layers and interactions that need to happen before a stable hexagon is formed, but is super cool to watch! Note that the hexagon does not form until day 230 and does not stop rotating until day 400.

Saturn hexagon simulation.gif
Hexagonal Creation Simulation. Sourced from the American Astronomical Society.

P.S.: For those of you who are interested, a great overview of this topic is illustrated in a video by The New York Times.

Featured image sourced from The Daily Express

A Voyager in the Solar System: The Story of the Voyager I and II

Two twins. Exploring where no other spacecraft has ever explored before. This was the goal that NASA set out to accomplish when they launched the Voyager spacecrafts. At least, this is what their missions came to be. However, it is not just the missions themselves that make them famous, but also what they carry for humanity. However, let us not get ahead of ourselves without a bit of history.

The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were sent into space by NASA in 1977 from Cape Canaveral, FL, in order to survey Jupiter, Saturn, Saturn’s rings, and large moons that surround the two planets. Voyagers 1 and 2 were sent 16 days apart from each other, and were only built to last 5 years. However, the technology proved resilient in space, and today the Voyager spacecrafts still report back to mission control.

Voyager 1 and 2
Voyager 1 on left; Voyager 2 on right. Image sourced from annesastronomynews

When it was found that the Voyager spacecrafts could continue doing research, NASA made the decision to direct the spacecraft’s resources to two locations. Voyager 1 was to be sent deep into interstellar space, and so from the end of its original mission the probe has been travelling deep into space. On August 25, 2012, it escaped the solar system and officially hit interstellar space. Voyager 2, on the other hand, was to be used to survey Neptune and Uranus, and is still the only man-made object to date to survey the two ice planets. Now all of this information is nice and dandy, but it leads to an important premise.

Before the Voyager spacecrafts were sent, a decision was made to include some information about humanity on the spacecrafts, just in case alien life happened to stumble upon it. This culminated in the creation of a golden record. Two copies of the record were made for each one of the Voyagers, but their contents are what continue to intrigue those that look into the topic.

On the front side of the record, seen as the left side of the featured image, are a variety of images etched into the golden surface. The images are supposed to depict the origin of the spacecraft as well as how the record is to be played. On the backside of the record are 115 images encoded in analogue that are supposed to represent Earth and human life. The rest of the record contains greetings and language starting with the Sumerian language (spoken 6000 years ago) to greetings today. Beyond that, it also includes 90 minutes of music hand selected from a variety of genres, both classical and modern to the time. It would intrigue some of you to know that the music, greetings, and images were selected by a committee at NASA headed by the famous physicist Carl Sagan.

So, what does this mean to you? Should we be afraid of broadcasting ourselves to alien civilizations? Stephen Hawking says yes, but others argue that it is important to learn about the rest of our universe. When selecting these images and sounds, Sagan and his team sought to reflect every facet of human life. So, some images are happy, sad, strange, and even anatomical. As a man of science, Sagan made sure to include a representation of the hydrogen atom and the makeup of the DNA molecule, two of the most profound discoveries in science. I have went ahead and placed an image below, but you can view all 115 at the Voyager website.

One of the more interesting photos encoded in these disks. Sourced from NASA

It may be the case that these spacecrafts are never found. That they will live out the rest of their existence floating in space, just like any other asteroid, or planet, or solar system, or even galaxy. But on the off-chance that another being does see it, we give a signal of hope. A hope that we are not alone in the universe. A hope that there is something more beyond us, and something more beyond them. Today, Voyager 1 travels alone in deep interstellar space, doing what it was meant to do. But, in doing this, it remains alone in the vastness of space. One day, its battery will have no power left to run its critical processes and Voyager 1 will simply float in space, carrying a bit of humanity with it. I think that, for a moment, we all feel like Voyager 1. Let this piece, selected by Sagan, resonate as we think about the loneliness of being a single spec of humanity within a sea of other worlds.

Featured image sourced from the Smithsonian

1 Shift, 2 Shift, Redshift, Blueshift

Space is vast. In fact, vast enough to contains many million, billions, and trillions of galaxies and other celestial objects. So the ultimate question is, how do scientists keep track of all of the celestial bodies? How do we know that the Andromeda galaxy is coming toward us if we can’t tell if it is growing in size by using naked eye observation? These burning questions, my friend, can be answered thanks to the rise of technology and advancements in practices.

From physics, we know that:

Velocity = Distance / Time

Therefore, if we were astronomers in the past, all we would have to do is determine the distance that a a star or a celestial object travels, and records the times at which we determined these distances, and, by subtracting the difference between the final and initial distance and final and initial time to find the velocity. For those of you who have taken calculus, this may look like:


Now that we have established what velocity is (and learned a bit of calculus), how is it that astronomers collect data on an object’s position in space?

In astronomy, there is something that is famously known as the Cosmic Distance Ladder. That is, given how far away an object or body is estimated to be, a certain method or device will be used to try and accurately gauge its distance. The distance ladder is shown below

distance ladder
Sourced from The University of California, Berkeley

If we look at the figure then we can see that, for example, we can accurately tell how far away an object in our solar system is by using RADAR and LIDAR. By using this method, scientists shoot radio waves into space and check how long it takes for them to bounce back. They then take the time and multiply it by the speed of light (since radio waves travel at the speed of light) to determine an object’s distance. So, if we really wanted to determine an object’s velocity in the solar system relative to us, we could use this technology to determine the distance away an object is to us at several different times. We would then use this to determine whether an object is moving toward or away from us, as well as how fast it is moving. If an asteroid is in the solar system, this could really help in determining whether or not it will strike Earth!

Yikes! Sourced from the Dailystar

However, what happens when we just want to know velocity? Well, we look at a celestial object’s absorption spectra. An absorption spectra is all of the visible light that an object absorbs in space, thus why it is called an absorption spectra. The absorption spectra for the Sun looks something like this:

Sourced from bhs4

Those black lines tell us all of the wavelengths that our Sun absorbs. We can use these lines to then determine if an object is moving toward or away from us. If an object is moving toward us, the lines will all shift the same distance to the right. This is known as RedshiftIf an object is moving away from us, then these lines move to the left the same distance. This is known as a Blueshift. We can then determine if an object has it’s spectral lines moved left or right by finding its absorption spectra when its not moving. Since elements each have their own absorption spectra, if we know the elements a object is made out of, then we can determine the absorption spectrum for that element when it is not moving. A visual example of red and blue shift looks something like this:

Sourced from the California Institute of Technology

Finally, why does this shift in spectra even happen? Well, if you’ve ever heard an angry person honk their horn continuously while passing you on the freeway, you’ve probably experienced something known as a Doppler Effect. The Doppler Effect essential states that anything wave at a velocity greater than 0 relative to you will slightly bend. Thus, when that person passes you, the sound waves get bent and the sound gets distorted. There is a great video by altshift that explains this better visually. Therefore, since light is a wave, light that is moving toward or away from us will become distorted and essentially change in wavelength. Thus, that is why we see the shift in wavelength to the left or right with Redshift and Blueshift.

Note, however, that objects on Earth move too slow for us to see this distortion of light. However, we can still hear distorted sounds thanks to the Doppler Effect. And so, I leave you with this: Video on Doppler Effect Using Trumpets

Featured Image Sourced From news.softpedia

Just Because You’re Bulkier, Doesn’t Mean You Pull More

We’ve all seen and learned about the cosmos and the stars up above. We learned that the Earth revolves around the Sun because the Sun’s force on the Earth is greater than any of the other major celestial bodies near this. However, something that many people forget is that this process is facilitated by Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation.

In terms of the realm of physics, Newton describes the Universal Law of Gravitation as:

F12 = G$\displaystyle{m_1 m_2 \over r^2}$

Now, I understand that the physics formulas can be a bit daunting, so let is break this down. First, let us define the variables in this formula:

F12 = Force exerted by one body on another

G = The Gravitational Constant (for those technically inclined, this number is 6.67408 × 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2)

m1= Mass of one of the bodies

m2= Mass of the other body

r2= distances between the center of each body, squared

Okay, so now that we know what the equation means you’re probably asking

Okay, so now I know how the force between two bodies is measured. What does that have to do with anything?

Well, this is important because this clears up a common misconception in people’s minds about gravity and attraction, especially in space. Let us say that, for example, mis the mass of the Earth, mis the mass of the Sun, and r is the distance between the sun and the Earth. Then, our Law of Gravitation Equation would look something like this:


This formula is then saying that, if we had all of these values, then we would know the gravitational force that the Earth exerts on the Sun. Now, let’s switch it around. Let’s say mis the mass of the Sun, mis the mass of the Earth, and r is STILL the distance between the sun and the Earth (in other words, r has NOT changed). Then, the force that the Sun exerts on the Earth would be characterized by:


Now, if we employ our first grade multiplication rules (the Commutative Property of Multiplication), we notice that both forces are equal! Yes, this means that the force that the Sun exerts on the Earth is EQUAL to the force the Earth exerts on the Sun. This is important because it proves false the common misconception that more massive things pull stronger on an object than less massive things. We see that, by using the Universal Law of Gravitation, this is false. Therefore, we can conclude that all objects that attract each other exert an equal force on one another.

Now, this also generalizes to smaller objects as well. Yes, humans have a gravitational attraction to their phones just as their phones are gravitationally attracted to them. However, the force of this attraction is so weak that we simply do not notice it. This Veritasium video does well in explaining the mathematics behind this. However, now that you know this this means that the pasta you attracted toward your face for dinner had an equal gravitational attraction to you. And, for those of you looking for a Valentine, you can now be certain that your crush is equally attracted to you as you are to him or her (at least concerning gravitational attraction).

Sourced from theodysseyonline

Featured Image Sourced From ytimg

The History Surrounding His-story: Nicolaus Copernicus and Other Things Surrounding His Time

Nicolaus Copernicus, an astronomer of Polish descent, is most famously known for proposing that Earth and other planets orbit around the sun, better known as the heliocentric model for the solar system (Nicolaus Copernicus Biography, 2017). He was born on February 19th, 1473  and died on May 24th, 1543 (Nicolaus Copernicus Biography, 2017)

He also discovered that the Earth spun about once daily on its axis, causing the production of the night and day that we see (Nicolaus Copernicus Biography, 2017). He is also known to have proposed the idea of precession, a phenomenon in which Earth’s axis rotates in a circular motion about its axis once every approximately 26,000 years (Nicolaus Copernicus Biography, 2017). For these foundational reasons, Copernicus is a very important figure in modern astronomy.

However, with this post I would also like to point out some other things surrounding Copernicus’s life that you may now have been aware of.

Events that Happened During Copernicus’s Life

Sourced from Tudortimes

In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella of the united Christian Spain conquer the last Moor stronghold of Granada, ending Moorish rule over Spain and returning it to the Spaniards (Leo Africanus, 1992).


Sourced from azquotes

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli completes his now prolific book The Prince, an almost guidebook of how to become a ruler and maintain rulership (A timeline of contemporary European events, 1400 to 1550, n.d.).


Someone Other than Copernicus Who was Famous During his Time

Sourced from Steemit

One of the most famous figures to exist during Nicolaus Copernicus’s life is Michel de Nostredame, or more famously known as Nostradamus (Editors, 2017). Nostradamus was prolific for his time and still today for his occupation as a French physician and the collection of works that he published known as Les Propheties (Editors, 2017). Les Propheties is known today as work that is said to predict future events, and people still today extrapolate its contents to explain how Nostradamus predicted that certain events would happen as well as interpret it as evidence toward predicting other farfetched events in the future. In general, Nostradamus can be regarded as an oracle of both the 16th Century and today.


So now you ask, “Well Jonah, what is the meaning of all of this loose information?”

I think that sometimes it is important to understand different aspects of a time period and circumstances surrounding what is being observed in order to fully understand what is being observed. For example, if a naïve child of the future were taught that a man named Nicolaus Copernicus determined that the Earth is traveling around the sun, he or she might say: “well, what is so great about that? I can look on the NASA website and they can tell me the exact same thing.” If this child didn’t understand the historical context behind these discoveries, as well as the events that were surrounding these discoveries, then not only would he or she not appreciate the groundbreaking discover that was made, but also would not understand the difficultly of the scientific method and the ingenuity that was involved to come to this conclusion. After observing this I see that, by observing history, we can better understand why these discoveries came to light during this time as well as the hinderances that these scientists were subject to in their discoveries. In observing this, we can inspire ourselves to move past our hinderances in the hope to innovate as well as help inspire awe and fascination for the sciences.


Featured image credit of Compilation11.com


Progression of the Seasons? Thank Precession

Everyone knows that the Earth experiences seasons. In the Northern Hemisphere children rejoice as they enjoy the summer sun in the month of June, while in the Southern Hemisphere they embrace the cold, daydreaming of warm summer days that await them in six months. However, what if I were to tell you that in about 13,000 years Gemini’s will be born in the winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) and Aquarius’s will be born in the summer (in the Northern Hemisphere)?

Indeed, this is a phenomenon known as “Precession”.


Sourced from gramhancock.com

Precession is a phenomenon in which Earth’s axis rotates in a circular pattern. This effect is actually caused by Earth’s rotation. See, if you go back to classical physics (which I know are skeletons in the closet), we know that something accelerates in a circular motion there is an equal and opposite reaction that occurs, or a centrifugal force. This centrifugal force fights the force of gravity, which is the force that keeps the Earth from splitting apart on itself while it rotates. If you’ve ever been in a car and made a turn, or you’ve been on a merry-go-round you’ve probably experienced a force that is trying to push you out of the car or off of the merry-go-round. This is centrifugal force.


The centrifugal force pushes against the force of gravity and causes the Earth to bulge, causing the shape of the Earth to be more bulged at the equator than at its poles. Sourced from ScienceLibrary

It is this centrifugal force that causes the Earth to bulge at the equator than at its poles. This bulging makes it so that Earth is not a perfect sphere. Now, since Earth is not a perfect sphere the sun will pull more on the bulge of the Earth that is closer to it than the other end of the bulge. This imbalance of force causes the Earth to rotate, with its axis as its center point. This rotation, as noted in the figure above, takes about 25,700 years to make a full 360 degree rotation. Now, what does this mean in terms of seasons?

Well, if we look at the first picture we can see that after approximately 13,000 years the Earth’s axis will be tilted the other way, or -23.5 degrees. This means that if we view things using our calendar then it will be winter in the northern hemisphere in the month of June and summer during Christmas! However, according to Cornell University Professor Jagadheep Pandian, humans will adjust the calendar so that it is always summer in June and always winter in Decemeber (sourced from Cornell University). I guess we will always have a white Christmas!

If you would like to see a video description of what I just described, I highly recommend watching this video by It’s Just Astronomical.

Always remember, look up, be curious, and be awed.

(Featured image sourced from epiphanies.com.au)


A Foreword Going Backwards, Or an About Me

Sourced from Miamiandthebeaches

Hi Folks. My name is Jonah Hinojosa. I am currently a Junior at Vanderbilt studying Physics. I’m originally from Miami, FL, so the above is a sight I have often seen. If you would like to learn more about my hometown, feel free to click here. I hope to provide you with more informative content in the future, as well as cooler and more intriguing pictures. I’m looking forward to the rest of the semester!

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