Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Thursday, October 1, 2020

California wildfires and Mt. Wilson Observatory; Elon Musk, Tesla, battery day and SpaceX Starship SN8 gets her fins; Quantum emergence, UHECR and colloquia; Peter Woit on QM

 Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we just got back from our road trip and have been busy keeping up with the latest news and getting back into the swing of attending physics colloquia at CSULB, UCI and UCR.

Wildfires are raging across California and many homes have been lost.  At one time, Mount Wilson Observatory was under threat of being destroyed by fire, but by good luck and hard work the fire path went elsewhere.  In appreciation of all of the hard work, the firefighters were treated to a night of observing on the 60-inch telescope.  Pretty neat!

Firefighters get free night of observing on the 60-inch telescope (Source: @MtWilsonObs)
Firefighters get free night of observing on the 60-inch telescope (Source: @MtWilsonObs)

It is also time to look at your calendar and make plans for attending the upcoming fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in November.  This is the big event for anyone interested in Earth science, including planetary and solar system science, with over 20,000 presentations from which to choose.  So, check it out and sign up for the online event at https://www.agu.org/.

Get ready to sign up for the fall American Geophysical Union meeting (Source: www.agu.org)
Get ready to sign up for the fall American Geophysical Union meeting (Source: www.agu.org)


In separate news, Science Nerd and Theatre Impresario, Scott, alerted us to the upcoming Tesla 2020 Annual Shareholders and Battery Day meeting.  Thanks for that heads up, Scott.  You can check out the whole event at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szn-sgOHqxo.  Here you can see that the event was held outdoors in a large parking lot with company officers, including Elon, onstage.  It was pretty strange to hear applause coming from the attendees in the form of car horns tooting approval.

Hmm, did all these Teslas drive themselves to the 2020 Annual Meeting (Source: Tesla)

One approach that I picked up during some of the presentations was how the automobile battery packs were being redesigned with larger battery cells, which reduces the amount of cell casing used per weight of storage media, and just epoxying the whole group of cells together to form its own rigid self supporting structure, which removes a lot of weight of the vehicle and increases the range between charges.

Tesla Battery Day announces increased energy density progress (Source: www.leandesign.com)
Tesla Battery Day announces increased energy density progress (Source: www.leandesign.com)


In other Elon related news, we see that progress of Starship SN8, which now is the first version to include fins, is making a lot of progress and being moved from the fabrication area to the launch site.  In this photo we see the road blocked off while SN8 moves down the road on its transport carrier.

Starship prototype SN8, with fins attached, is transported to the launch site (Source: SpaceX)
Starship prototype SN8, with fins attached, is transported to the launch site (Source: SpaceX)


So, once the SN8 makes it off the road, there is no slack time as we can see in this next photo, from BocaChicaGal, where we see SN8 being lifted onto the launch pad.  We understand we will very quickly be seeing some pressure testing, a couple of engine static firings, and then the big test hop.


Starship prototype SN8 is being lifted onto the launch pad (Source: Mary, @BocaChicaGal)
Starship prototype SN8 is being lifted onto the launch pad (Source: Mary, @BocaChicaGal)


As long as we are following Tesla and SpaceX news, we shouldn't forgo an interesting video, almost a biography of how Elon became who he is today.  The video documentary, "Elon Musk: The Scientist behind the CEO (and How he Teaches Himself) is very interesting.  We see glimpses of how he grew up and how he continuously taught himself how to think of himself as chief engineer for his many companies.  I don't know how accurate the biography of how he developed but it rings plausible.  Elon mentions some of the key books he learned a lot from and how his physics background kept him asking questions that got to the most fundamental aspect of the problems he was trying to solve.  Hey, I've read some of those same books and am trying to get a better understanding of physics, so where are my billions$?  Anyway keep going, Elon, the world needs more of you!

Elon Musk: The Scientist (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-g7BPdSmP4&feature=youtu.be)


One of the things we notice about Elon is he is in charge of learning and making decisions himself.  We all face this in our own careers and lives and it is important to work out how we come to know and understand what is going on in reality.  To that end, this recent documentary, "The Social Dilemma", by Netflix, let's us in on how social media works and corrupts social discourse.  Social media platforms have a business model where we are the product that is being manipulated and sold.  Yes, I like it when Amazon or other sites recommends some book or product that has been specifically found to fit my previous online search history, but at the same time it is kind of spooky.  We each are given and served up a different version of reality when we log on and the recommendations and sometimes search results are generated on our previous predilections, not on some common reality.  So, check it out and see if you too shouldn't do what some of the original inventors of Facebook, etc., recommend and that is to delete your accounts now or at least consider how whatever you say there might be used against you.

How social media works and corrupts social discourse (Source: Netflix, "The Social Dilemma")
How social media works and corrupts social discourse (Source: Netflix, "The Social Dilemma")



Ok, now that the school term is off to a great start, even though if it is mostly all online, our study schedule has just got more filled up and complicated.   The CSULB physics colloquium this week considered some of the new weird finds of quantum behavior in condensed matter physics.  For example, some types of symmetries found in our 4-dimensional universe, have different properties when constrained to some materials that are fabricated as films, that is primarily 2-dimensional in nature, show properties not found in the bulk. 

Professor Nandini Trevedi, Ohio State University, spoke on some of this strange emergence of quanatum properties found in 2-dimension structures.  Of course, all nanostructures are really 3-dimensional, but their properties when mostly constrained to 2-dimensions show amazing differences.  For example, in some 2D molecular films, charge and spin can be separated from each other each manipulated separately.  How neat is that!  Also, as we have accepted for years that Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism are based on no magnetic monopoles, but in some of these new quantum liquids, the best description of their emerging behavior is based on magnetic monopoles.  So, even though my interests range more into astrophysics and cosmology, the new findings in condensed matter physics are really fascinating.

Amazing new perspective from Condensed Matter Physics (Source: Nandini Trevedi, OSU)
Amazing new perspective from Condensed Matter Physics (Source: Nandini Trevedi, OSU)


The other physics colloquium at UCI dealt with more of an astrophysical topic, which this time was the nature of Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECR).  Greg Huxtable, UCI, presented some of the results of a paper that was recently published on what physical process is responsible for being able to generate such high energy.  We know that many astrophysical processes can accelerate particles to very high energies, such as Fermi acceleration, but that process is not thought to be feasible for the very high energy cosmic rays.  The new process, called Wakefield Acceleration, somewhat analogous to a surfer riding an ocean wave and continuously picking up energy, is thought to be the source of UHECR.  I've heard of WFA before, but I still don't quite grasp the whole way in which it works.  More study required here.

Wakefield Acceleration as possible source of UHECR (Source: G. Huxtable, UCI Seminar)
Wakefield Acceleration as possible source of UHECR (Source: G. Huxtable, UCI Seminar)


In addition to these and other colloquia, you can also sit in on an online quantum mechanics course, taught from an advanced mathematical point of view by Professor Peter Woit, Columbia U.  Yeah, it is very advanced mathematically and even though it is is on my todo list, his perspective is quite advanced and more than what I expected.  At least, as you can see in the screen capture below, he begins by going over Lie groups and Lie algebra.  I might eventually get the hang of all of this stuff.  How about you; are you making progress too?

Lie groups and Lie algebra & the Quantum (Source: Peter Woit, Columbia U Quantum Mechanics class)
Lie groups and Lie algebra & the Quantum (Source: Peter Woit, Columbia U Quantum Mechanics class)


By the way, just in case you have been wondering how mathematicians view physics and the rest of the universe, check out this cartoon on Woit's website.  Yep, we see how human knowledge of the universe progresses to more fundamental studies, such as physics, but to mathematicians they are still way ahead of the crowd.   Thanks, Peter Woit, for filling us in on how the world works!


Mathematician's perspective and physics (Source: Peter Woit, Columbia U Quantum Mechanics class)
Mathematician's perspective and physics (Source: Peter Woit, Columbia U Quantum Mechanics class)




Until next time, here from our burrow, stay safe, as we recover more of our freedom,


Resident Astronomer George



Be sure to check out over 400 other blog posts on similar topics
If you are interested in things astronomical or in astrophysics and cosmology
Check out this blog at www.palmiaobservatory.com


No comments:

Post a Comment