Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Modern Mysteries

A Few of the Most Pressing Mysteries of
Modern Physics

....Our ancestors wondered why the planets move the way they do, or how magnets work, but we have a slew of mysteries ourselves! Sure, these mysteries aren't completely encroaching on our daily lives, but they're HUGE mysteries nonetheless. Take a look at some of the subjects your children will take for granted:

7. What is the shape of the universe?
By shape, astrophysicists mean what will eventually happen to the universe. Will it continue to expand forever until everything freezes over (including hell)? Or will the expansion slow, stop, and then reverse until the universe ends in a Big Crunch? Newer and better telescopes, both ground and space-based, will answer this question...

6. Magnetic monopoles
Maxwellian electromagnetic principles state that magnets will never have monopoles, meaning that there will always be a north and a south pole. No matter how small you cut a magnet, it will always have a north pole and a south pole. Well, solar physicists observe magnetic monopoles as the source of coronal mass ejections! How does this fit into modern physics? It doesn't!

5. Where did all the anti-matter go?
Cosmologists (astrophysicists on drugs who specialize in Big Bang Theory) say that matter and anti-matter should exist in equal quantities. If so, where did all the anti-matter go?

4. Grand unification theory
Einstein died trying to solve this holy grail of theoretical physics. What's the problem? Try sometime to use quantum mechanics and general relativity at the same time. It doesn't work! These two methods work fantastically well for the very small (quantum mechanics) and the very large and massive (general relativity), but what about the very small and massive (like black holes)? The answer may lie in the 11 dimensions of string theory, but folks have been working on that for decades... gravity sure is a pesky little thing.

3. Source of extragalactic gamma ray bursts
Gamma ray bursts are the brightest events in the universe (so far), yet we still have no idea what produces them! Anti-matter reaction? Two neutron stars colliding?
2. Coronal heating - 1 million degrees, what the heck!?
The "surface" of the sun, called the photosphere, is a cool 4500°K. Yet over the next 2000 km in altitude the temperature rises to an astounding 1 million degrees! Why? Nobody knows! Perhaps the answer to this question will finally open the way to profitable fusion reactors here on earth...

What is dark matter and dark energy?
We know it's there. It makes up 95% of the mass of the universe. Right now, we have no clue what it is. Just that it is. Now, if that's not a mystery...


B-Rob said...

So what do you think of the LHC in Europe? It sounds like it might answer a few questions...

Nickolas Pickolas said...

Ya! The Large Hadron Collider will hopefully show us the Higg's Boson which will finally reveal the exact mechanism controlling inertia, and therefore mass. From what I know, it will hopefully answer the question of dark matter and dark energy as well as the shape of the universe and possibly help out with the grand unification theory. Exciting stuff, the LHC will be turned on this year!