Friday, November 5, 2010

Spielberg and Black Holes - What's the Connection?

For any of you long-time science fiction fans out there, you probably remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars as changing movie sci fi forever and bringing it into the mainstream of box-office success stories. What I've always loved about "real science fiction" is when it is written by a real-life scientist and not only entertains you, but educates you about some arcane field of science you may never have heard about before.

Imagine my surprise when I heard Dr Kip S. Thorne, The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at California Institute of Technology, announce the link.

But first, let Amaryllis tell you about his talk at the APS conference.

Dr. Thorne started off his talk with a bang. Instead of the old man wandering on to stage to lecture the audience, an attractively dressed woman walked on to stage with a fuzzy witch’s hat, cackled evilly, then said, “Hit it!” and proceeded to sing a song about gravitational waves and black holes. After the song had finished, Dr. Thorne came on stage and explained that he had pulled a few strings to get his friend to perform before his talk.

Dr. Thorne then began his talk, starting by describing black holes. He presented a rubber sheet with a massive object stretching the center as a visual image. He then preceded to talk about some very recent discoveries about black holes, namely when there is a system of two black holes. In an instance where two black holes merge, he displayed a three dimensional animation where, as the black holes got closer to one another, they extend long fingers towards each other, which mesh, followed by the merge of both black holes. If the two black holes have opposite spins at the time when they collide, the newly created black hole oscillates between a vertical ellipsoid, a sphere, and a horizontal ellipsoid. On the four ‘corners’ of the oscillating shape, the original spins of the two black holes becomes evident as the shape becomes a horizontal ellipsoid. This effects reappears each time the black holes reverts to said shape.

This research break through just happened, Dr Thorne & his associates are modeling quite a few types of black hole interactions, and will be publishing a paper on their results soon. And Steven Spielberg is making a movie, Interstellar about it. Planned to release in 2012, so mark it on your calendars.

Visit Amaryllis to learn more and share in the fun.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sneak Preview of Spielberg's Newest Movie Pt 1

The Americal Physical Society conference was the last place I expected to hear breaking news from the entertainment industy. The APS conference started out much like any other scientific conference. After checkin, coffee and pastries we listened to noted professors from JPL and Cal Tech gave plenary talks.

The JPL talk was on global warming, and, sadly, was about what you'd expect. Not up to JPL's normal standards.

Let me have Amaryllis tell about the second talk by Dr Sean Carroll, Cal Tech.

The physics conference that I went to this had a talk from several people, the most notable of these to me being Prof. Carroll and Dr. Thorne. Prof. Carroll’s talk was about the arrow of time. The arrow of time, he explained, specifies a direction in which time can progress, but that it cannot travel backwards along the same path. This can be seen as evident from scrambled eggs. You can make scrambled eggs from eggs, but not vice versa. This concept is defined by the Second Law of Thermodynamics with entropy. He goes on to discuss entropy. You cannot have a decrease in entropy in an open system.

To hear it from the professor's mouth, try Arrow of Time.

But wait, you may be saying, what about Steven Spielberg? Alas, blogs should be short, so you'll just have to come back to read part 2.

Visit Amaryllis to learn more and share in the fun.