Saturday, May 31, 2008

General science for now (with an english twist!)

In this blog, for now, I think I'll just write about some things I find in the general scientific community (I'm not concerned right now; Phoenix is still fairly fresh and the LHC is around the corner). For now, I've got a presentation here that I wrote for my English class exam presentation. I never got around to editing it thoroughly, I did most of that on the stand. However, I was pleased with this speech not necessarily for its quality but for the topic. I had to relate a symbol from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle to something in the real world, and it took me a while to find something suitable and that I thought was original enough. It turned out that most people did dictators, land disputes, or feminism (I don't have anything against these topics and find them important to cover thoroughly, but in a class of around 25 people each of these got around 5-7 people). The moment it fully hit me that no one did something that was remotely related to science, I had to stifle a laugh (lest I lose gratuitous amounts of marks for interrupting and seemingly making fun of someone). The science in this only has a few sources behind it, and the science itself is deeply theoretical, but I'm silently begging my teacher to shower me with marks not for thinking outside the box, but stepping outside, getting miserably lost, and then running in random directions for a while before making camp somewhere no one's ever heard of a polygon with four equal sides and 90 degree angles.

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Ice-Nine and the General Forge and Foundry Company
Related to Strange Matter and CERN

Samuel Dupuis

Hello, for all those here who don't know my name it's Samuel Dupuis, and I'll be exploring a spontaneous connection between the ice-nine of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and strange matter that could be produced at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). I'll also go into differences between the organization CERN and the fictional General Forge and Foundry from the novel. First, however, I'll give a brief overview of what I've found about CERN, the LHC and strange matter.
CERN is an international organization for the pure research of fundamental physics comprised mainly of European countries, with some other countries and organizations having privileges as observers of all activities. The aim of CERN is only that of plumbing the mysteries of fundamental physics. CERN was established in 1954 as a revival of European science post-WWII. Two Nobel prizes have been won by employees of CERN with inventions in observation at such small scales, and explaining the weak interaction, responsible for radioactive decay. Their current project, hoped to break such new ground in our understanding of the universe, is the LHC. Thousands of scientists representing numerous other nations, universities, and other organizations have worked on the various LHC detector components and the LHC itself.
Today, there are people who think that the experiments at the LHC are capable of destroying the Earth. There are two of these speculated kinds of disasters: micro black holes and strangelets, or strange matter. Micro black holes aren’t as relevant here, but have also been dismissed by CERN as not being a threat (the black hole would disintegrate). Strange matter, however, bears eerie resemblance in its potential to ice-nine. Strange matter, for this presentation, is another type of basic matter. It's thought that once it’s produced it will remain stable enough to interact with regular matter and introduce strange stability. Strangeness would propagate throughout all nearby regular matter, i.e. the Earth. This is somewhat less forgiving than the total water freeze of Vonnegut's imagination, because it would turn absolutely everything into strange matter without two notable elements: a storm, and survivors.
This ideology isn't home to many members, at least on the Internet. The scientist’s counter looks at a few other points. First, strange matter is still theoretical, and the circumstances could be missed anyway. Next, strange matter would be charged as regular matter: Positively, making them repel. Finally, strange matter would be very unstable in small amounts. While busy getting repelled by normal matter, it would just decay back into energy and regular matter. They're also fairly sure cosmic rays have satisfied these conditions countless times, and thus creating the matter if it does exist. Considering the universe is still here, they're sure strange matter won't be problematic.
Ice-nine was known to be dangerous by Felix Hoenikker, and no one ever denied its potential. Strange matter diverges here in that it's thought by most scientists that the situation is safe. Nobody ever asked for the creation of strangelets either; they may just show up in the pursuit of knowledge. If they wind up ending life on Earth and its previous state of existence, it would be the fault of the scientific masses and not of a few individuals. CERN as a whole is aware of the project, representing tons of awareness, whereas the General Forge and Foundry didn't really know about ice-nine, mostly because it was hidden from everyone.
CERN and General Forge and Foundry aren't very similar overall, but their goals are still the same: knowledge of the universe, and not with the coercion of business. They're both large groups of scientists racking their brains in the search for scientific truth. They also both seem to garner mixed reviews from the public. GFF’s scientific values are attacked by Vonnegut himself, but in that universe the people who work for the scientists seem to like them. CERN has drawn fire for the danger some people are convinced exists, but has been honored with prizes and widespread interest on an international level, as many non-member states may still take part. They diverge when CERN becomes larger, has many resources with it, and needs them to achieve results. GFF is based in a single country and is home to a scientist who could break new ground in physics with things you would find at a dollar store. Neither is very thoroughly understood by much of the public, and many people wouldn’t know of them at all, letting them usually carry on without strong media harassment.
It’s by chance that this connection, from fiction to fact, occurred, making it a greater observation and not something forged by either side. If Kurt Vonnegut had written this in the time they had some basic ideas for the LHC going around, he might have made some changes. The important difference here is that strange matter destruction may be continuing on unfounded fear, where as ice-nine didn't get the respect it deserved when it was proven to be dangerous. At the end of these experiments we may just look back upon ice-nine, laugh, and remember that history and the universe aren’t understood vaguely with slight analysis; without a good look, they just aren’t understood at all. This may mean that we shouldn’t get stuck old fears, and that science won’t bite for looking. It could also lead to the ‘weapon potential’ scenario from The Physicists itself, by Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt. It’s the word of most physicists versus a smaller group and some of the concerned public, and both have been right in history. I’ve still come to think that the LHC is still based on sounder science, and that maybe it’s time to let go of some of our older fear, and forge ahead with our mistakes always in mind.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Awaiting an idea...

So far, my mind hasn't given me any bright ideas about what to do next. I can't say I'm too surprised, since I wasn't originally looking beyond the old project and hadn't thought of anything recently. I'm still interested in space and physics, as well as biology, math, and various other nerdy topics. I could also start blogging obsessively about DotA and FMP experiences, but then I'd get mauled by my parents and there are much better blogs about those. By people who play professionally and I'm not even doing it for school anymore. I don't really know what to blog about that I don't feel has been done before, though when it had to do with school it wasn't really about that to me. Suggestions would be fun from people who come here every so often, and maybe I'll get around to it (if people are interested in my gaming, that's surprising, intriguing, and I'll look into it more). Maybe I'll come up with something in there, or just something totally nonrelated to science (I don't think it's likely, but it's certainly possible).

Keep those comments coming!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Very Foreseeable End: Now.

I don't have much time left in the project. About negative one day. Sorry about the lack of closer warning, but the project is over! My teacher could very well be marking my work now, and looking over everything I've done. The work I've done is, basically, this blog. I can't really think of much to say after a few months of writing here, mostly my musings and mental tangents infused with some serious information. This was usually a short online search, and sometimes info from literature. What I really love about this blog is that I can just lay down everything on my mind and at worst I'll be briefly considered, then ignored. I think I've been able to commit to this fairly well because of it.

Finally, I'd like to thank some people at the end of this project. I thank my family, for looking over my shoulder every so often at what I'm doing. I thank my friends for not laughing when I gave them the link (though I don't know how many of them actually visited...). I give my dad special thanks for actually giving me the idea, prodding me constantly until I posted, and referencing me in his blog to get me started with a few people checking and more priority in Google. Last, but not necessarily least, to all the visitors to this site. Even if it was just a short click and many never came back, thanks for at least checking out the link after a search.

The blog will likely continue, but I don't yet know how. I could go into talking about physics, medicine, a broader view of science, or even stay in space. Whatever the final result is, I'm hoping I'll stay interested. Maybe this blog, with age, will be better maintained... the possibilities are endless. Endless!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another virtually unforseeable question: The End?

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/end.html

The end of the universe is another one of those questions that's fairly fun and/or unnerving to contemplate, depending on how one looks at those things. I'm going with the latter camp, but it's still interesting for me (I had to put something beside unnerving just to make it sound less assertive; I'm not sure exactly who thinks this is the most hilariously funny subject imaginable). There are myriad things that could happen to humanity before the universe makes any serious progression in its lifetime, if said progression ends up noticeable at all. Orders of magnitude are thrown around like... well, I can't think of anything to match how much they're being thrown around. The total stabilization of one system is estimated to take 10^10^26 years. I didn't even want to type out 26 zeros because typing one more or less would add/subtract most of that order of magnitude of orders of magnitude. I don't know how the maker(s) of the theory(ies) would feel about getting it that wrong.

Any possible end of the universe would take orders of magnitude so great relative to studies now just because it would be the culmination of all the other numbers, in a sense. Considering what the Earth faces in the coming centuries, never mind when the sun will unload in the coming billions of years, Earth-born intelligence has some ridiculous obstacles to overcome to be around in 10^50 years (as a number I'm assuming here could only be survived by a sentience if it wouldn't destroy itself and had substantial portions of reality on a leash, at very least). If terrestrial sentience survives the wrath of the sun, I wouldn't actually be surprised if it were hanging on by more than just an outpost on some other planet in the solar system. It could also be completely impossible.

Determining the fate of the universe probably requires a complete understanding of how it works. So far, we've received a lot of feedback that does and doesn't make sense with theories we have right now. Of course, things that don't make sense are just as much part of the universe as things that do, or at least that sounds like a good idea. If dark matter makes up most of the known universe, and if there might be a nonzero cos. constant (or something along those lines), then there is a lot of explaining to do before predictions about what happens next carry some serious weight, even in the theoretical realm. That's basically why I wrote hardly anything about actual end-theory of the page; we don't actually know what most of the universe we even know about is doing.