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Experiments like the double slit experiment have spawned multiple interpretations of quantum physics, including the Copenhagen interpretation and Pilot Wave Theory. But the Many Worlds Hypothesis might be the most mind-blowing of all.
The most popular interpretation of quantum mechanics over the past hundred years was developed by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen, around 1925. This was fittingly named the Copenhagen Interpretation.
Louis de Broglie [de Broy] came up with the Pilot Wave Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics at about the same time, which I’ve also covered.
Both of these interpretations share the belief that the measured path of a particle is the only real path. The other paths are mere possibilities.
About 30 years later, a slightly drunk Princeton student disagreed. While sipping sherry, or so the story goes, Hugh Everett III started asking, what if all the paths do exist, but are just taken in different realities?
Everett’s ideas were… not well received to say the least. At the time, Niels Bohr was then alive and active in scientific circles. He had a reputation for shutting down any physicist who dared challenge the Copenhagen Interpretation.
And that was where the idea stayed, relegated to the dustbin of history, for the next 2 decades, before it got rediscovered by Bryce DeWitt.
He was the acting editor at Reviews of Modern Physics in 1973 when he ran across the paper and was stunned that nothing ever came of this idea.
Since the 1970s, the Many Worlds Interpretation has gone from being fringe science to an idea mainstream physicists can get behind.
Stephen Hawking was a fan, as was Richard Feynman…though to hear physicists tell it, Feynman was a fan of literally EVERYTHING.
One prominent proponent of Many Worlds working today is David Deutsch, who is a quantum computer pioneer whose cool factor went through the roof when he was mentioned in Avengers: Endgame.
Last week, the Event Horizon Telescope released their first images ever taken of a black hole, specifically the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87. I thought this would be a good time to look back at how we’ve visualized Black Holes over the years and what we can learn from them.
If we’re going to become a space-faring civilization and travel to Mars and beyond, we need to know how to live and work in space. So while space stations aren’t the most headline-grabbing aspect of the space race, they are vitally important.
In 1957, the United States began testing nuclear weapons underground in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada as part of Operation Plumbbob. One underground test, Pascal B, may have put the first manmade object into space.
Robert R. Brownlee engineered the Pascal A underground test to measure the amount of fallout that would occur from underground nuclear explosions. It involved digging a 485 foot shaft into the ground and capping it with a heavy steel plate.
The explosion blew the steel plate off the ground and caused Brownlee to wonder how fast it propelled the object, so he set up a second nuclear test, Pascal B, to measure the speed of the steel cap.
The high-speed camera only recorded the plate in one frame, which led Brownlee to conclude that it must have been traveling at more than 125,000 miles per hour, or 5 times the escape velocity of Earth. The plate was never found, and this has led many to believe it was jettisoned out into space.
If this is true, the steel plate from Pascal B beat Sputnik to space by 2 months and would be the fastest human-made object of all time.
There are many who believe this couldn’t possibly be true though because at that speed the plate would have vaporized in the atmosphere just like a meteor or satellite re-entering the atmosphere at orbital velocity. So the mystery of Pascal B carries on.
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Robert Bigelow became a billionaire as the owner of Budget Suites of America hotels. But now he wants to build hotels in space. And his company Bigelow Aerospace is getting closer with their inflatable habitats.
Robert Bigelow grew up in Las Vegas in the 1950s, and saw the nuclear testing that took place nearby. This spurred a love of science that he carries with him to this day.
He vowed to one day spend $500 million to create the first commercial space station, and established Bigelow Aerospace in 2000.
Their focus would be on inflatable habitats, a technology that NASA developed while working on the Transhab module for the International Space Station that was eventually cancelled. Bigelow Aerospace bought NASA’s patents and began working on their own versions.
The first program, GenesisI1 and Genesis II, were unmanned inflatable habitats that tested the technology. The habitats were functional for 2 and a half years and performed well enough that NASA contacted Bigelow to test an inflatable module on the ISS.
Bigelow created BEAM – the Bigelow Experimental Activity Module, which was installed on the ISS in 2016. It has performed perfectly, getting its original 2-year mission expanded beyond 2020, and has shown to stand up to micrometeorite impacts and radiation as well as the rest of the ISS.
Bigelow’s next step is to launch the B330, a 300 cubic meter inflatable habitat that is the centerpiece of their plans. Bigelow wants to use multiple B330s to create commercial space stations in orbit. B330s may even be used as habitats on the moon.
Beyond that, Bigelow plans to build the B2100, a massive habitat with 2 and a half times more volume than the ISS. These would be the first space hotels.
One of Earth’s oldest rocks may have been dug up on the moon.
A chunk of material brought back from the lunar surface by Apollo astronauts in 1971 harbors a tiny piece of Earth, a new study suggests.
The Earth fragment was likely blasted off our planet by a powerful impact about 4 billion years ago, according to the new research.
“It is an extraordinary find that helps paint a better picture of early Earth and the bombardment that modified our planet during the dawn of life,” study co-author David Kring, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, said in a statement.
The research team — led by Jeremy Bellucci, of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and Alexander Nemchin, of the Swedish Museum and Curtin University in Australia analyzed lunar samples collected by members of the Apollo 14 mission, which explored the lunar surface for a few days in early February 1971.
The scientists found that one rock contained a 0.08-ounce (2 grams) fragment composed of quartz, feldspar and zircon, all of which are rare on the moon but common here on Earth.
Chemical analyses indicated that the fragment crystallized in an oxidized environment, at temperatures consistent with those found in the near subsurface of the early Earth, study team members said.
The available evidence suggests that the fragment crystallized 4.1 billion to 4 billion years ago about 12 miles (20 kilometers) beneath Earth’s surface, then was launched into space by a powerful impact shortly thereafter.
The voyaging Earth rock soon made its way to the moon, which was then about three times closer to our planet than it is today.
The fragment endured further trauma on the lunar surface. It was partially melted, and probably buried, by an impact about 3.9 billion years ago, then excavated by yet another impact 26 million years ago, the researchers said.
This latest collision created the 1,115-foot-wide (340 meters) Cone Crater, whose environs Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell explored and sampled 47 years ago.
An Earth origin for the ancient fragment isn’t a slam dunk, study team members stressed.
However, it is the simplest explanation; a lunar birth would require a rethink of the conditions present in the moon’s interior long ago, the researchers said.
We often think of outer space as a never-ending vacuum filled with the occasional galaxy. What we don’t realize is that away from our eyes, this vacuum comes alive.
In order to understand what truly happens behind our backs in the vacuum, we must start by examining space itself.
So what is space? Quantum Field Theory tells us that space is composed of fundamental quantum fields, with a separate field for every particle that makes up our universe.
Electrons, quarks, neutrinos, and other fundamental particles are just the oscillations of the field with different energies. In specific, they have quantum energy, which exists as multiples of a baseline energy.
You can think of this as a ladder with energy levels. Each rung of the ladder represents the existence of one additional particle in that quantum state.
So the bottom of the ladder would be where there is no energy, meaning there are no particles. This is known as the vacuum state.
But as we will see, we cannot actually have zero-energy. Instead, the quantum field gently vibrates randomly. Sometimes this produces enough energy to form particles out of seemingly nothing!
The particles arising out of the fluctuation of quantum fields are called virtual particles.
Empty space is teeming with these virtual particles or “wiggles in the field”.
But there is a catch; these particles are created in particle and anti-particle pairs. They live only for a short instance of time until they destroy each other, popping in and out of existence.
The higher the energy of the particle, the lesser time it can exist. Wait a minute. Virtual Particles? That sounds sketchy. Let me show you the proof.
By definition, these elusive particles only exist when we aren’t watching, but their presence can be felt throughout the universe. In 1948, Hendrick Casimir came up with an ingenious idea to observe these virtual particles.
The Implications of Virtual Particles
Well, these seemingly insignificant particles have made quite an impact on the universe we know today. Not only do they explain “particle-particle interaction“, but they can be traced back to the origin of the universe itself!