Category Archives: Science

MIT Hyperloop Competition

This past weekend, a team of MIT students won the first round of the SpaceX Hyperloop Design competition which was held at Texas A&M University. The hyperloop design consisted of a high scale transportation design, a concept originally developed by Elon Musk a few years back. Through this design competition, these MIT grad students came one step closer to fulfilling Elon Musk’s vision.

The vehicle that these students created will travel inside the hyperloop which will connect various cities to one another. This pod that the team developed will hover above the ground and will travel at a very high speed to transport people across various cities included in the route. In order to make the pod hover, the MIT students used magnets above a conducting plate.

The team will now build a miniature prototype to test in California this summer. In the past, MIT has been a part of several technological breakthroughs and now it’s appropriate that they contribute to progress in transportation as well. The team has strengths in areas such as mechanical and electrical engineering which helped them win the first round of the competition. The team is being supported by all of MIT and everyone awaits to see what happens in California this summer.

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THE WAY IN WHICH CHEMISTRY PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN MOVIES

After reading the title “The Way in which Chemistry Plays a Major Role in Movies”, you all may be contemplating the multifarious relationships evident among characters in movies or perhaps the complex interactions between two people, which can occasionally be referred to as chemistry. However, the term “chemistry” in this particular scenario embodies absolutely no affiliations with any attributes that may be intimating a relationship. Rather, it inhabits its orthodox definition as a branch of science and the study of the composition, structure, and properties of matter as well as the changes matter undergoes. Although it may not appear patent at first, chemistry has numerous, profound roles in the making of all movies. To begin with, simply think about how a movie is made. By a director, right? WRONG! I mean yes, but think deeper! What does a director use to make a movie? A camera. How exactly does a camera capture the moments of life, and later display the moments onto the big screens? The correct answer is that a camera utilizes a vital component that is known as the film. The film, a major constituent of a camera, is a pliable and attenuated strip of plastic with light-sensitive emulsion for exposure in a camera, fundamentally used to produce motion pictures. The primary chemicals (substances that have a definite composition) and compounds, which are made from the atoms of at least two chemically-bonded elements, become involved when actually developing the film. The first layer of a film is a protective coating which protects the emulsion layer that has the gelatin and the silver halide crystals in it. (Higher speeds of film have multiple layers of emulsion.) The next layer is the film base, which is a polymer that is chemically stable and flexible. The last layer is the anti-halation backing, which precludes reflections off the back of the film

Moreover, the origins of photographic processes date back to the 1800s and yet were still astonishingly dependent on chemistry. The beginnings of photographic processes were devised by William Talbot during the 1830s. Talbot’s procedure consisted of continuously rinsing paper in baths of saltwater and silver nitrate (AgNO3) solution, hence depositing silver chloride (AgCl) in the fibers of the paper. Afterwards, this wet piece of paper was exposed in a camera till a dark, silvery image appeared in the light-struck regions, and the remaining silver chloride (AgCl) was removed by washing it with a concentrated salt solution. By waxing or oiling the negative sheet, Talbot made the paper translucent, and then by making an exposure of diffuse light through the negative onto another sensitized sheet, he produced a positive image. Therefore, an interminable number of copies of a photograph could have been generated from any one negative. In other words, behind the multiplex concept of filmmaking and photography lies a simple (or not so simple) answer: science, and specifically, chemicals and compounds, which are all ultimately a part of chemistry. In the following centuries, as photographic processes advanced, mechanisms of processing undeniably altered to later on, produce color and digital photography.

All in all, behind a movie is a director, behind a director is a camera, behind a camera is a film, and behind a film is the work of chemistry. As technology continues to expeditiously evolve, along will come the emergence of further advanced photography, and along, in the years to follow, will come the institution of an augmented role played by chemistry throughout the film industry via the concept of photography.

Elon Musk: A New Supervillain?

On Wednesday, Elon Musk appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about Tesla, Space X, and other innovative ideas that he’s had over the years. But on the show, he brought up a new idea about humans being able to inhabit Mars. Musk supports the idea of traveling to Mars and has his own ideas about how the planet can be made habitable for humans.

First off, Mars needs to be warmed up to the right conditions. Well, Elon Musk’s solution is to drop thermonuclear weapons. Colbert decided that based on Musk’s thinking he has to be called a “supervillain” and rightfully so.

Musk added that there were probably several ways to warm up Mars but the quickest way would probably be to drop a bomb. Other scientists who have studied Mars agree that it can be modified to make it closer to conditions on Earth but it would take time and a lot of effort to overcome the numerous obstacles. Furthermore, scientists are skeptical as to whether Musk’s new idea sets the right example. Planet and space exploration should be done in a way that keeps everything under ideal conditions and doesn’t disturb the balance of nature.

Other slower options of warming Mars seem to be amounting to extreme costs over time, which would have to be implemented. Elon Musk wants to help out and give new ideas and this last one is definitely interesting. However, being able to bomb Mars into a proper condition for humans seems out of reach at the moment.

Things You May Not Have Known About Your Brain

The human brain is the single most complex thing in the known universe. Even in this age of medical wonders, we still have not been able to uncover the full secrets of this incredible organ. However, we do know some things about the most important organ in the body.

  • The belief that humans only use 10% of their brains is incorrect. Each part of the brain has a specific function and the average person uses all the various parts of the brain.
  • The brain has a texture similar to tofu, and enough liquid to fill a 2 liter tank.
  • Thoughts create ‘pathways’ that connect different parts of the brain. The more we repeat a thought, the more that pathway will become more central, wide and stable. That is why it is important not to think over and over about negative things, because they become permanent, and strong, pathways in your mind, and the chances are will force themselves on you more and more.
  • We think about 70,000 thoughts a day. A large part of these are ‘automatic’ thoughts that we repeat a lot, using our most ‘established’ thought pathways.
  • Most people dream about 4-7 dreams a night. 50% of those dreams are forgotten in the first minutes after waking. And the one we remember is usually one we were either just dreaming or a mix of all the dreams we had put together. No wonder they always seem so confusing.
  • Sleep is usually the time the brain uses to organize and put together the memories is accumulated throughout the day. And so, in many cases, before making big decisions it’s better to ‘sleep on it’.
  • The messages between the various brain cells (neurons) are passed in the form of weak electrical pulses. The brain creates 23 watt of electricity while awake, enough to light a light bulb.
  • While we laugh, about 5 areas lit up in the brain simultaneously.
  • The brain isn’t fully developed until the teen years are over. Multitasking, showing empathy and good decision making are some of the skills that develop a little later.
  • The brain is constantly changing. Damage to one part of it may cause that part to change to a different location in the brain, especially if you are a baby or a child. Beyond that, every thought, experience or skill we encounter and learn changes the structure of our brain.
  • Memories aren’t built in a linear progression. We only remember ‘pictures’ or moments, and we put together a story from them ourselves. That is why it’s tricky to trust your memory, because you may have done some ‘editing’ without knowing it.
  • The brain alone uses 20% of all the oxygen we breathe and over 25% of the sugar we consume.
  • The human brain has more ‘wrinkles’ and crevices than those of other animals. In this way, the brain gets more surface space, while staying at around the same size, and it is part of the reason for our increased intelligence.

How Does Napping Affect Your Health?

Taking a timeout to sleep during the day does much more than just give us a quick energy boost. It also confers some serious cognitive and health advantages as well. Here’s what the latest science tells us. Unlike 85% of all mammalian species, humans sleep just once a day. It’s clear that we’re not getting enough sleep. Nearly a third of us say we’re simply not getting enough of it. Power naps can relieve our so-called sleep deficits, but they can also boost our brains, including improvements to creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, object learning, and statistical learning. They help us with logical reasoning, math, our reaction times, and symbol recognition. Not only that, napping is good for our heart, blood pressure, stress levels, and surprisingly, even weight management!

Take A Nap For The Sake Of Your Heart….
In a study carried out in Greece, researchers found that adult males who took an afternoon nap at least three times per week were 37% less likely to die from a heart related disease in comparison to men who never take a short afternoon nap.

In many countries, it is custom to have a nap (commonly know as a siesta) after lunch, and it is not such a coincident that nearly all such countries have an extremely low rate of fatal heart attacks. On the other end of the scale we have countries such as the United States where heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death, and as most of us know,  these countries do not really advocate afternoon naps. In fact, taking a short nap in the afternoon could end up costing you your job.

Does The Length Of A Nap Affect The Benefits?

Yes and no. The length of your nap will determine what sort of benefits you’re likely to experience. But, even a  short 20 minute nap in the afternoon can provide all the benefits of napping which have already been mentioned. However, According to the WebMD napping can be broken up into different categories:

20 Minute Nap – While a short 20 minute power nap does enhance memory, it has a more dramatic effect on mental alertness and motor learning skills.

20 To 30 Minute Nap – This length of nap will typically enhance creativity while at the same time also boosting memory.

30 To 60 Minute Nap – This type of nap has an incredibly beneficial impact one’s decision making skills. It also improves the part of your memory that’s responsible for memorizing things such as the alphabet; directions and etc.

60 To 90 Minute Nap – Taking this type of nap will ensure that you get REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and as such, this type of nap is the most beneficial of them all. Once you reach REM sleep, it’s almost as if the brain resets itself. One could say it’s like starting at the beginning again. Studies have shown that a 60 to 90 minute nap can have a dramatic effect on the brain in terms of problem solving. Here again, NASA has conducted their own studies, and they land up with the same result.

The Entirely unlikely, yet possible theory: White Holes

For as long as humans have been discovering their surroundings, there has been an opposite to everything in the universe. There was light inverse to darkness, yin to yang, matter to antimatter. Then, it seems that we should not be surprised by the entirely theoretical yet possible concept of “White” holes as opposites to Black Holes. It does not make the concept any less mind blowing though.

Albert-Einstein-10In the subject of General Relativity, first discovered by Albert Einstein and then improved by such scientists as Stephen Hawking, white holes are effectively hypothetical regions in space-time that are impenetrable from the outside despite emitting matter and light from inside. By this definition, they are the inverse of black holes, which can absorb matter  and light into an object of infinite density at their center, but never let anything escape.

These white holes also attract matter through gravity, like black holes or any other object of mass in the universe, but the attracted matter never reaches the event horizon, or “point of no return.” Although these white holes only exist mathematically, there was a cosmic anomaly witnessed by scientists on June 14, 2006. The giant explosion of light in deep space seemed otherwise completely unexplainable. A light burst of that caliber, lasting for about 102 seconds, would normally be paired with a supernova. At the time however, there was no supernova or collision of any sort to attribute to the burst.

grb2The reason why white holes were dismissed as non existent was that although mathematically possible, they violate the laws of Physics: The second law of thermodynamics. This law states that the entropy of the universe can only stay the same or increase but never decrease. Entropy itself is defined as a tendency toward disorder. If black holes were the epitome of disorder, sucking in everything in sight, a release of matter would be adding order, thus decreasing entropy.Therefore, in the case that a white hole did form, it would be highly unstable because it would be fighting the universe’s laws of physics, and would shortly collapse in on itself, perhaps turning into a black hole. These would maybe last a few seconds, not a minute and a half as witnessed in 2006.

what-are-white-holesAlthough countless scientists have put forward explanations and theories, we cannot be certain how this burst was emitted. Until we have a chance to see another anomaly like this, we can’t necessarily prove the existence of these amazing white holes. It begs to question though, if in Einstein’s world of general relativity, time can flow forward and backward, allowing the existence of white holes and their ability to flow opposite to black holes, it would mean our one solid constant is in fact not. Time itself, we think, is the only unalterable variable in our lives regardless and unrelated to all other changes, but even time is only relative to our location in space. Nothing is constant, so perhaps our laws of physics, such as the second Law of Thermodynamics, may be subject to alteration. There may be a location in our universe where entropy is decreasing. We simply don’t know yet do we?