They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

COSMOS Watch: Episode 6

I saw something on Facebook that the Kansas Legislature was going to ban the showing of Cosmos, but it was from The Onion or other satire source -- it's just that in today's climate it seems so believable. Sigh.

-- This week there was an intro before the Opening Credits, but I missed it dealing with a phone call from a student.

-- Dandelion seed floating along.

-- Atoms.

-- Every molecule of water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom -- which is why it is called H2O.

-- Vibrational movement.

-- That's all that temperature is.

-- Every motion. Condensation.

-- A dewdrop is its own world.

-- Paramecium is a hunter-killer.

-- It's mortal enemy... that's life in the dewdrop.

-- Tardigrade -- the water bear -- smaller than the head of a pin. Been around for 500MY, for every one of us, there's at least a billion of them.

-- Can live anywhere.

-- So tough they can survive in the naked vacuum of space.

-- Survived all FIVE planetary extinctions.

-- The bottom of moss leaf -- stomata, where the plant breathes.

-- Plants make food out of sunlight.

-- The good stuff -- chlorophyll.

-- The cosmos contained in a single dewdrop.

-- Trying to find the trade secret of the chloroplast.

-- Atomic scale.

-- "Heart of the molecular industrial complex." (Shows a sort of steampunk, clockwork atom.)

-- Submicroscopic solar battery.

-- 6x more energy than all our civilization.

-- Nature more efficient than our technology.

-- Photosynthesis is the ultimate power source and in fact is carbon neutral.

-- Doesn't contribute to global warming.

-- Orchid is among the first flowering species.

-- Charles Darwin fascinated by orchids.

-- For one species in Madagascar, pollen at the bottom of a long tube.

-- Predicted that there MUST be an insect with a long tongue.

-- 50 years later, a type of Hawk moth found with a foot long tongue.

-- The fragrance of lilacs.

-- Scents trigger associations of memory.

-- Odors are molecules -- gasoline, burnt toast or a field of lilacs.

-- Receptors sense molecules, trigger electrical signals to brain.

-- Why trigger powerful memories?

-- Sense of smell kicks in when olfactory nerve is triggered.

-- Close to amygdala, part of the primitive brain, and the hippocampus which forms memories.

-- Showing a "purple fog" from boy running with lilacs.

Still ahead... we travel to one of the cosmos' most stupendous events...

(I am SO tired of little spoiler snippets. Do they really think that 90% of their audience for COSMOS will turn away from the channel during a couple of commercials? Just save it and say it when we get there.)

-- Molecules visualized as we breath in and out.

-- The plants are softly breathing in CO2 and O2 out.

-- I'm doing the opposite.

-- Every breath contains as many molecules as stars in the visible universe.

-- There was a moment when we awoke to a new way of thinking.

-- 2500YA, East and West met.

-- Anime: Here were the first reenactments shown -- plays -- a way of seeing historical events.

-- First government by the people.

-- And the thought that citizens had rights.

-- And the idea that natural events were neither punishments nor rewards by the gods.

-- Thales, none of his writings survive, but his ideas did.

-- 100Y later, Democritus, a true scientist.

-- And a fun guy: proposed that a life without parties is like travel without an inn at the end.

-- Idea of atoms and infinite diversity of rearrangements.

-- A clay cup.

-- Mineral structures are fixed by lattices of just a few types of atoms.

-- Even topaz, with ten or so atoms, can only repeat the same pattern of atoms over and over.

-- Behold the Carbon atom, the essential building blocks of life.

-- Carbon is special. Can bind with up to four atoms, or itself, or curl into rings.

-- Even similar atoms, like Silicon, not as diverse.

-- Carbon is the backbone of molecules of everything alive on Earth.

-- And love...

-- Boy gives girl lilacs.

-- He touches her cheek.

-- Dad looks on.

-- Take it easy, Dad, he never really touched her.

-- As atoms approach, the boy's electron cloud pushes back on the girl's electron cloud.

-- 99.9% of mass is in the nucleus.

-- The nuclei never touch.

-- We only have a sensation of touching.

-- The nucleus is very small compared to the atom.

-- If atom = this cathedral, this mote of dust is the nucleus.

-- 100,000x smaller.

-- Hydrogen has just one proton, so it's element number 1.

-- Helium has two protons, but protons repel each other, so need neutrons to hold them together by the strong nuclear force. It's element number 2.

-- With six protons, element 6 is Carbon.

-- 79 protons = Gold.

-- It's the interactions between electrons and light that makes gold glitter.

-- Limit to how many neutrons you can put into a nucleus.

-- But I know a place where the nuclei actually touch.

-- The Sun, everything is in a gaseous state.

-- Why so hot? It's stupendous gravity squeezes...

-- ... and at the center, nuclei touch and fuse.

-- Balance has created stability that has lasted billions of years and allowed life on Earth to flourish.

-- Helium is the ash of the furnace.

-- At only 10M degrees, can't fuse Helium.

-- Larger stars can.

-- Even bigger ones live fast and die bright in supernova explosions.

-- Around one per century in our galaxy.

-- Magellanic Cloud is a nearby galaxy.

-- A supernova rivals brightness of whole galaxy.

-- Yet light is only 1% of the energy.

-- 99% is carried off by...

-- One of strangest places on Earth.

(Tyson is in a rubber dingy in a HUGE tank of water, the round walls studded with shiny hemispheres.)

Commercial for a new Windows 8 ASUS convertible tablet has run FIVE times so far in this show -- tired of it.

-- Stalking the wild neutrino is hard.

-- Japanese neutrino detector is 1/2 mile below surface.

-- 50,000 tons of distilled water.

-- Matter poses no barrier to neutrinos.

-- Could travel through 100LY of steel without slowing down.

-- Even the minuscule electron has a mass 1Mx bigger.

-- Supernova in Magellanic Cloud.

-- But it's in the Southern Hemisphere, so neutrinos aren't traveling through 1/2 mile of rock, but through the Earth.

-- The neutrinos arrived on Earth three hours BEFORE the light did.

-- But if speed of light is the fastest speed in the universe, how is this possible?

-- The ship of the imagination approaches a star.

-- This is a dead star walking.

-- Inside this blue supergiant has already exploded.

-- Neutrinos come out at the speed of light.

-- But the shockwave of the explosion can only travel at 1/10,000th of the speed of light.

-- Supernova SN1987A.

-- Took hours to expose the core.

-- Pauli thought up the neutrino.

-- Trying to hold conservation of energy and momentum.

-- Cannonball demo in a lecture hall -- Tyson holds a red cannonball on a rope to his nose, let's it go. It swings down and away, goes up, stops, swings back.

-- Tyson does not flinch.

-- The laws of science are not like the laws of man.

-- But do NOT give the cannonball a push.

-- Startled to find a supposed break in the conservation laws.

-- Electron ejected from atom, but the energy of the two pieces is not enough.

-- Wolfgang Pauli came up with idea of a tiny, impossible to detect particle that carried the missing energy and momentum.

-- A decade later, his neutrino was detected.

(Going to fifth page of notes -- all the other COSMOS Watches used just four.)

-- The Wall of Forever.

-- Our ancestors ran into it as soon as they came up with the idea.

-- 1300BC, Ramses II temple.

-- Falcon headed Ra, God of the Sun, in between four statues representing Ramses II.

-- In the chamber behind, the sun rays can enter only two days a year.

-- Ta, lord of creation, end of the line of gods illuminated by the sun on those days, still in shadow, as if creation should be forever hidden.

-- It takes 10MY for light to fight from the core to the surface.

-- 8'20" to get from the surface of the Sun to Earth when freed.

-- The Cosmos Calendar of 13.8BY -- 1BY/month, 40MY/day.

-- 10MY ago was just 6pm on New Year's Eve.

-- Our ancestors were still tree hugging apes.

-- 4500MY ago, Sun started fusing hydrogen into helium -- this was October 31st.

-- But something keeps me from going further back than 13.8BY.

-- The farther we see, the older the light.

-- This picture is of 380,000 year light -- 15 minutes into January 1st.

-- The glow from the Big Bang.

-- 1/trillionth of 1/trillionth of 1/trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was only 2-3" across. (Tyson holding a small glowing blue ball.)

-- Inconceivable crush of matter, neutrinos free to leave.

-- The neutrinos of creation are everywhere.

-- Leading on a road back to Thales and Democritus.

You know, I always start off my courses by explaining that "We are here to change the way you think." And I really mean that. Neil Degrasse Tyson refers to this in regards to when we awoke to the scientific method.

We have a bowling ball at WMU to use for the Conservation of Energy demonstration. It looks terribly scary.

And my usual size description of the atom is to take the Ring Road around the university as the electron orbit. A cherry pit by the Haym Kruglak sundial somewhere near the center of campus is the nucleus, a grain of sand on the Ring Road is the electron. The rest of the atom is empty space -- though the number one answer you tend to get is that the atom is filled with air. (grin)

As for the neutrino, my standard line is that a neutrino traveling through 750LY of solid lead would have a 50:50 chance of interacting with the lead.

Thanks to the Japanese for letting Tyson film in their neutrino tank. (grin)

Dr. Phil
Tags: cosmos

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