Answers With Joe

Could The Tonga Blast Lower Global Temperatures? (And Other Questions)

In today’s Lightning Round video, we cover such subjects as cosmic spiders, shrimp with guns for hands, the Tonga blast (Hunga-Tonga actually), and new energy sources. Thanks to the Patreon supporters who submitted questions!


Once a month, I take questions from Patreon supporters who support above a certain level and I answer those questions.Once a month, I take questions from Patreon supporters who support above a certain level and I answer those questions.

There are many questions in this world to be answered. Most people do so privately, on their own time, in their own way…
Unless they run a YouTube channel where they take questions from supporters and then you get a lightning round video like this.

Wow, what an intro!

As always, lightning round questions are submitted by Patreon supporters at the Solar System level and above, so if you think you’ve got a better question, get in there and prove it.
And if you want to see a full video on any of these topics, let me know in the comments.

Mark Hoffman – Feb – Patreon

Wouldn’t it make more sense if we used a base 12 numerical system?

Sounds like someone didn’t do well in math class.
“It’s not me, it’s base 10!”
Actually I would have used that as an excuse if I was clever enough.
Would it make more sense? I mean, I guess depends on what you’re using it for.
We do have a bit of a base 12 system in how we keep time, with 12-hour day and night cycles so I guess you could argue that a civilization that was more time-based would stick with base 12.
It’s actually an interesting question, you know, we landed on base 10 because we have 10 fingers and I’ve always wondered what things would be like if we had more or less fingers…

Like if canines became an intelligent species, would there be a base 8 system?
The Mayans actually had a base 20 system, and it’s thought – I really don’t know if it’s true, but its thought that since they were in a warm climate they didn’t have to cover their feet so they had 20 digits to work with.
That sounds a little crazy but I read that somewhere.

The Babylonians had a base-60 system, they were also the first to divide the hour into 60 minutes and minutes into 60 seconds. I don’t think those two facts are unrelated.
There are also 360 degrees in a circle, which is divisible by 60, so there’s a base 60 of sorts used in navigation.
But Base-60 is also kinda base 12 because 60 is divisible by 12.
And one of the arguments that a base 12 system is more useful is that 12 is divisible by more numbers. For example, you can divide 12 by 2, 3, 4, and 6, but you can only divide 10 by 2 and 5 – without getting into decimals and fractions.

The Egyptians are the most well-known civilization that did actually use a base-12 system.
So, yeah, Base-12 has its uses but if you ask me, base-10 stuck because of the whole 10-finger thing, which made it easier for non-mathematicians, just normal people like farmers and craftsmen to trade with each other and conduct transactions.
In other words, commerce. Money.  It’s always the money.

Thomas Lovse – Feb – Patreon

Can you please, more in depth, explain quantum superposition? I still don’t get it.

Mmmmm no.
The nature of a lightning round video is that I don’t go in-depth on things and I have covered quantum theory in other videos about as in-depth as I a capable of, I’ll link those down below.
But really, don’t sweat it, most people don’t get quantum mechanics, or as Richard Feynman once said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”
And he was kinda paraphrasing Neils Bohr, who said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not fully understood it.”
So if those two heavyweights struggled with it, I think it’s okay for us to as well.

Cole Parker – Feb – Patreon

What new hybrid or advanced energy sources are out there? You covered micro nuclear, what about tech that is solar hot water and photovoltaic, or hydroelectric that pumps water uphill for later release or other creative clean energy.

Okay so… I’m sorry, I’m gonna be really pedantic for a second because you’re asking about energy sources and then you describe pumped hydro, which is energy storage and those are two different things.
I know, I’m that guy right now.

But it does matter because there’s a LOT of different energy storage options and ideas out there but energy sources… there’s not really anything new on the horizon… until we can make fusion happen.
Like there’s a lot of different ways to collect solar energy and transform it and use it but the source of that energy is still the sun.
But you mention solar hot water, I wouldn’t call that new, necessarily, but that’s a type of solar thermal energy.
Interestingly, I was reading something about this, about how for a long time most solar energy was solar thermal energy, either the concentrated solar that heats oil in a tube that then boils water – steam – turbine, that whole bit, or the molten salt solar thermal that focuses a bunch or mirrors on a tower and then, you know… water/steam/turbine…

It was more popular because it was cheaper but now photovoltaic panels have gone down in price so much, that’s more popular and is producing the the majority of solar energy.
But yeah there are systems that use solar water panels to heat up water that you can then use as hot water in your house, or you can store that hot water and later draw energy out of it using a heat exchanger.

It’s not a bad option, especially if you have a large place or you’re out in the country off the grid kind of thing, but as the price of battery storage comes down, it’s becoming cheaper and easier to go that route.
But yeah I’m going to be a stickler on the use of the word “source” in this question and just say that I’m not aware of any new energy sources outside of solar, wind, combustion, geothermal, nuclear… Again, unless I missed something, let me know.

Joe Scotts Beautiful Hairline – Feb – Patreon

How does the pistol shrimp claw work, does it really reach temperatures close to the sun?

Yeah… the pistol shrimp is pretty cool.
To those who might not be wise in the ways of the pistol shrimp, it’s a type of shrimp that can basically snap its claw so fast that it causes a cavitation bubble in the water that creates a shock wave that stuns its prey. And then it gobbles it up.
And when the vacuum of the cavitation bubble collapses, it does produce a tiny flash of light which itself is crazy AF because it’s a very, very rare case of sonoluminescence, which is light that’s created by sound waves.

Yeah, light created by sound waves. Just sit with that for a second.
But that tiny flash of light is created by a plasma that for a very, very… very… tiny amount of time, is as hot as the surface of the sun.
Sounds like clickbait. But it’s totally true.

As for how it does it, it’s a combination of the type of joint in the claw and the shape of the claw.
So there’s two types of joints in shrimp claws, they’re both called slip joints but the pistol shrimp has a cocking slip joint. (Nature video above)
The basic gist of a cocking slip joint is when the claw muscle is pulled, it holds open until it reaches a certain level of resistance before it gives, and that’s what makes it snap shut instead of just opening and closing.

And as you can see, the sort-of forearm area of the claw on these shrimp is huge because the muscle that operates that claw is crazy strong.
So that’s the type of joint, but then there’s the shape of the claw.

Inside the stationary part of the claw is an indention, a little cavity that holds water, and when the claw snaps shut, it forces this water out at an extremely high velocity.
And you might know this but the higher a fluid’s velocity, the lower its pressure. This is how airfoils work on airplane wings, it forces the air going over the top to go faster than the air below, higher velocity means lower pressure, so the air below the wing has higher pressure than the air above it, and that pushes the wing up.
Well in the case of the pistol shrimp, that velocity is so high that it makes the pressure go so low that it’s actually lower than the vapor pressure of water.
As you may know, water boils in a vacuum. Which is why if you were doing a spacewalk and your helmet sprung a leak, the last thing you would experience before you lost consciousness would be the fluid on your eyes getting all fizzy. Fun!

So yeah, the speed of the water coming out of this snap kinda boils the water and creates a cavitation bubble that’s filled with nothing, just a straight-up vacuum, when this vacuum collapses is when all that energy is released.
Energy that creates a tiny bit of light and for a very brief moment, a temperature of about 8,000 degrees. (4427 degrees Celsius)
And… it creates one of the loudest sounds in nature, at 218 decibels.
So yeah, pistol shrimp are insane but I think my favorite thing about the pistol shrimp is… They don’t know any of that.
They don’t know velocity and pressure and cavitation and all that, they just know that if they snap their finger, the other guy goes down. Like they’re just walking around with a superpower like what are you gonna do about it?

Joe Scott’s Beautiful Hairline – Feb – Discord

Will you make anymore history topic videos in the future


Fishtail – Feb – Discord

With your “Conversations with Joe” podcast, what do you look for in guests? Are they interesting people apart from their field of study? Do they need a certain amount of visibility?

Chase E – Feb – Patreon

Hi Joe! With the recent explosion in tonga, is it true the blast was larger than the largest bomb tested? What was the scale and extent of the blast? Could it have possible positive changes on our climate or was it just not large enough?

First of all, it’s actually Hunga-Tonga, which is the most fun-to-say name I’ve ever heard so I’m never gonna stop saying it.
(Technically guy walks up in the room)Technically, it’s Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai

To answer your question, NASA said that Hunga-Tonga equalled between 4-18 megatons, which would make it hundreds of times stronger than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

But Hiroshima, despite all the deaths it caused, was actually a very small atomic bomb, especially compared to some of the ones that were tested later on, which I believe is what you were asking about when you mention the largest bomb ever made, which if you are talking about the largest bomb ever made, you are talking about the Tsar Bomba.
By the way, the only thing more fun than saying Hunga Tonga is saying Tsar Bomba vs Hunga Tonga.
The Tsar Bomba by the way, was ridiculous. It created a pressure wave that circled the world 3 times and shattered windows 480 miles (780km) away. It’s just so much bigger than most people realize.
That would be like a bomb going off in New York City and breaking windows in Raleigh North Carolina.
Or a bomb in Chicago breaking windows in Nashville.
Or one in LA breaking windows in Tuscon.
Or one in Houston breaking windows in Oklahoma City.

Yeah the Tsar Bomba was estimated to be between 50-58 megatons, so much bigger than Hunga Tonga.
…If you’re going by megatons. There is another metric that makes it more complicated. And that’s the strength of its shockwave.
Okay, so in 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed and part of that treaty was it set up an organization to monitor nuclear weapons tests around the world and that organization created by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was cleverly named, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization.
Anyway, they operate a global array of stations that measure atmospheric pressure, and according to them, Hunga-Tonga was stronger than the Tsar Bomba.
When Tsar Bomba went off, it measured .5 to .7 hectopascals at their station in New Zealand, about 10,000 miles away.
But Hunga Tonga measured at around 2 hectopascals in Austria, which is roughly the same distance away.

That would make Hunga Tonga nearly 4x stronger than Tsar Bomba.

Now, I don’t know, maybe those are two totally different measurements, megatons vs. hectopascals but yeah… I don’t know. Depends on how you measure it I guess.
But your question about how it would impact the climate, that has nothing to do with how strong a blast it was, that has to do with what got blasted out.
And Hunga-Tonga definitely put a lot of ejecta very high into the atmosphere, in fact Oxford University research fellow Simon Proud said on Twitter
“Based on analysis of data from global weather satellites, our preliminary data for the Tonga volcanic cloud suggests that it reached an altitude of 39km [24 miles],” Proud said. “We’ll refine the accuracy of that in the coming days, but if correct, that’s the highest cloud we’ve ever seen.”

But… scientists don’t think it’s strong enough to lower the global temperature.
Because Hunga-Tonga released a lot of ash but not a lot of sulfur dioxide, and it turns out that’s what actually produces most of the cooling effect.
For example, Mount Pinatubo in 1991 was the last volcano to affect the global temperature and it was way heavier on the sulfur dioxide.
Hunga-Tonga released about 400,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, that’s about 2% of what came out of Pinatubo.
And Pinatubo’s effect only lasted for a couple of days anyway.
So, yeah. Maybe bigger than Tsar Bomba, but not going to cool off the globe.

Chase E – Feb – Patreon

With SpaceX’s star link those satellites surely will deorbit within a few years due to atmospheric drag. But is there any risk if they happened to have any collisions while still in orbit that debris can hang around causing the feared Kessler syndrome?

I feel like I… JUST talked about that.
No, this is clearly a response to my recent video on satellite internet, and this is actually something I was going to put in there but it was running long and this just didn’t make it in.
But yeah, Kessler syndrome, I’m very worried about that – when I see these governments testing anti-satellite missiles and creating debris fields it infuriates me, it’s just so irresponsible.

But… someone might say that SpaceX is being just as irresponsible for putting tens of thousands of satellites in orbit for Starlink. I mean, what’s the difference between 40,000 pieces of debris from a collision and 40,000 satellites?
And that’s a fair question. And here’s how I think about it.
There are 19,500 incorporated cities in the United States. Imagine if each city had only one car. What’s the chance that one of them would hit another car? Pretty low, right? These cars are all tens, maybe hundreds of miles away from each other.
Now, spread that out around the entire planet. The US only makes up 1.87% of the Earth’s surface, so these cars are all thousands of miles away from each other now. The chance of any of them hitting each other are exceedingly low.
Then keep in mind that satellites don’t all orbit on the same plane, you’ve got a third dimension to play with now, and there are hundreds of orbital levels going up thousands of miles.

The point is, there’s a lot more room up there than our brains probably think. And just to put that 19,500 number in perspective, it’s 4x more than the number of active satellites in orbit (4500), and a bit less than the pieces of orbital debris that we’re aware of and tracking (27,000). And, about half of what Starlink is eventually planning to be (40,000).
So I think as long as the majority of these are in a very low Earth orbit that will decay pretty quickly and they’re all managed by the same company that can keep track of them on the same system, that’s about as safe as you can hope for.

Brian Beswick – Feb – Patreon

How scary is the title of this article?! #AstrophysicsClickBait

All right, let’s see, what are we looking at here, Cosmic Spider Found To Be the Source of powerful gamma rays. Cosmic Spider! (playfully fall out of chair)
This is just proof that the universe was produced by Jon Peters.

If you don’t get that reference, Kevin Smith tells this amazing story of working on a Superman script with a producer named Jon Peters who was obsessed with giant spiders.
All right, let’s see about these giant space spiders.
“A bright, mysterious source of gamma rays has been found to be a rapidly spinning neutron star — dubbed a millisecond pulsar — that is orbiting a star in the process of evolving into an extremely-low-mass white dwarf. These types of binary systems are referred to by astronomers as “spiders” because the pulsar tends to “eat” the outer parts of the companion star as it turns into a white dwarf.” Yeah, that’s some serious clickbait.

Brian also asked:

Also, with what seems to be an exponentially growing mountain of scientific discoveries, what things from science fiction do you think might become science fact within our lifetime?

Okay, so I swear I’m not just trying to promote the podcast here but I do actually have an episode on the way with a sci-fi writer and we talk about that very thing. So… wait for that.


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