(page 1 of 2)
There is nothing better than a bit of mythbusting (which accounts for the popularity of the television program of the same name), so here we are again, presenting you with a new list of terribly common misconceptions and myths – this time about science.
10The Myth: Evolution causes something to go from “lower” to “higher”While it is a fact that natural selection weeds out unhealthy genes from the gene pool, there are many cases where an imperfect organism has survived. Some examples of this are fungi, sharks, crayfish, and mosses – these have all remained essentially the same over a great period of time. These organisms are all sufficiently adapted to their environment to survive without improvement.Other taxa have changed a lot, but not necessarily for the better. Some creatures have had their environments changed and their adaptations may not be as well suited to their new situation. Fitness is linked to their environment, not to progress.The Myth: When exposed to the vacuum of space, the human body popsThis myth is the result of science fiction movies which use it to add excitement or drama to the plot. In fact, a human can survive for 15 – 30 seconds in outer space as long as they breathe out before the exposure (this prevents the lungs from bursting and sending air into the bloodstream). After 15 or so seconds, the lack of oxygen causes unconsciousness which eventually leads to death by asphyxiation.The Myth: Polaris is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere night skySirius is actually brighter with a magnitude of ?1.47 compared to Polaris’ 1.97 (the lower the number the brighter the star). The importance of Polaris is that its position in the sky marks North – and for that reason it is also called the “North Star”. Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor and, interestingly, is only the current North Star as pole stars change over time because stars exhibit a slow continuous drift with respect to the Earth’s axis.The Myth: Food that drops on the floor is safe to eat if you pick it up within five secondsThis is utter bunkum which should be obvious to most readers. If there are germs on the floor and the food lands on them, they will immediately stick to the food. Having said that, eating germs and dirt is not always a bad thing as it helps us to develop a robust immune system. I prefer to have a “how-tasty-is-it” rule: if it is something really tasty, it can sit there for ten minutes for all I care – I will still eat it.The Myth: There is a dark side of the moonActually – every part of the moon is illuminated at sometime by the sun. This misconception has come about because there is a side of the moon which is never visible to the earth. This is due to tidal locking; this is due to the fact that Earth’s gravitational pull on the moon is so immense that it can only show one face to us. Wikipedia puts it rather smartly thus: “Tidal locking occurs when the gravitational gradient makes one side of an astronomical body always face another; for example, one side of the Earth’s Moon always faces the Earth. A tidally locked body takes just as long to rotate around its own axis as it does to revolve around its partner. This synchronous rotation causes one hemisphere constantly to face the partner body.” The Myth: Brain cells can’t regenerate – if you kill a brain cell, it is never replacedThe reason for this myth being so common is that it was believed and taught by the science community for a very long time. But in 1998, scientists at the Sweden and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California discovered that brain cells in mature humans can regenerate. It had previously been long believed that complex brains would be severely disrupted by new cell growth, but the study found that the memory and learning center of the brain can create new cells – giving hope for an eventual cure for illnesses like Alzheimer’s.The Myth: A penny dropped from a very high building can kill a pedestrian belowThis myth is so common it has even become a bit of a cliche in movies. The idea is that if you drop a penny from the top of a tall building (such as the Empire State Building) – it will pick up enough speed to kill a person if it lands on them on the ground. But the fact is, the aerodynamics of a penny are not sufficient to make it dangerous. What would happen in reality is that the person who gets hit would feel a sting – but they would certainly survive the impact.The Myth: Meteors are heated by friction when entering the atmosphereWhen a meteoroid enters the atmosphere of the earth (becoming a meteor), it is actually the speed compressing the air in front of the object that causes it to heat up. It is the pressure on the air that generates a heat intense enough to make the rock so hot that is glows brilliantly for our viewing pleasure (if we are lucky enough to be looking in the sky at the right time). We should also dispel the myth about meteors being hot when they hit the earth – becoming meteorites. Meteorites are almost always cold when they hit – and in fact they are often found covered in frost. This is because they are so cold from their journey through space that the entry heat is not sufficient to do more than burn off the outer layers.The Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twiceNext time you see lightning strike and you consider running to the spot to protect yourself from the next bolt, remember this item! Lightning does strike the same place twice – in fact it is very common. Lightning obviously favors certain areas such as high trees or buildings. In a large field, the tallest object is likely to be struck multiple times until the lightning moves sufficiently far away to find a new target. The Empire State Building gets struck around 25 times a year.The Myth: There is no gravity in spaceIn fact, there is gravity in space – a lot of it. The reason that astronauts appear to be weightless because they are orbiting the earth. They are falling towards the earth but moving sufficiently sideways to miss it. So they are basically always falling but never landing. Gravity exists in virtually all areas of space. When a shuttle reaches orbit height (around 250 miles above the earth), gravity is reduced by only 10%.Inspired by an excellent LiveScience Article. This article is licensed under the GFDL because it contains quotations from Wikipedia.
Imagine if you were told that the world is simple and exactly as it seems, but that there is an infinite number of worlds just like ours.They share the same space and time, and interact with each other.These worlds behave as Newton first envisioned, except that the slightest interactions of the infinite number create nuances and deviations from the Newtonian mechanics. What could be deterministic is swayed by many worlds to become the unpredictable.This is the new theory about parallel universes explained by Australian and American theorists in a paper published in the journal Physics Review X. Called the “Many Interacting Worlds” theory (MIW), the paper explains that rather than standing apart, an infinite number of universes share the same space and time as ours.They show that their theory can explain quantum mechanical effects while leaving open the choice of theory to explain the universe at large scales. This is a fascinating new variant of Multiverse Theory that, in a sense, creates not just a doppelganger of everyone but an infinite number of them all overlaying each other in the same space and time.
Do we exist in a space and time shared by many worlds? And are all these infinite worlds interacting? A new theory of everything is making the case.
Cosmology is a study in which practitioners must transcend their five senses. Einstein referred to thought experiments, and Dr. Stephen Hawking — surviving and persevering despite having ALS — has spent decades wondering about the Universe and developing new theories, all within his mind.The “Many Interacting Worlds” theory, presented by Michael Hall and Howard Wiseman from Griffith University in Australia, and Dirk-André Deckert from the University of California, Davis, differs from previous multiverse theories in that the worlds — as they refer to universes — coincide with each other, and are not just parallel. The theorists explain that while the interactions are subtle, the interaction of an infinite number of worlds can explain quantum phenomena such as barrier tunneling in solid state electronics, can be used to calculate quantum ground states, and, as they state, “at least qualitatively” reproduce the results of the double-slit experiment.Schrödinger, in explaining his wave function and the interaction of two particles (EPR paradox) coined the term “entanglement”. In effect, the MIW theory is an entanglement of an infinite number of worlds but not in terms of a wave function. The theorists state that they were compelled to develop MIW theory to eliminate the need for a wave function to explain the Universe. It is quite likely that Einstein would have seen MIW as very appealing considering his unwillingness to accept the principles laid down by the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Theory.While MIW theory can reproduce some of the most distinctive quantum phenomena, the theorists emphasize that MIW is in an early phase of development. They state that the theory is not yet as mature as long-standing unification theories. In their paper, they use Newtonian physics to keep their proofs simple. Presenting this new “many worlds” theory indicates they had achieved a level of confidence in its integrity such that other theorists can use it as a starter kit – peer review but also expand upon it to explain more worldly phenomena.
Rather than island universes as proposed by other multiverse theories, Many Interacting Worlds (MIW) proposes many all lying within one space and time.
The theorists continue by expounding that MIW could lead to new predictions. If correct, then new predictions would challenge experimentalists and observers to recreate or search for the effects.Such was the case for Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. For example, the bending of the path of light by gravity and astronomer Eddington’s observing starlight bending around Sun during a total Solar Eclipse. Such new predictions and confirmation would begin to stand MIW theory apart from the many other theories of everything.Multiverse theories have gained notoriety in recent years through the books and media presentations of Dr. Michio Kaku of the City College of New York and Dr. Brian Greene of Columbia University, New York City. Dr. Green presented a series of episodes delving into the nature of the Universe on PBS called “The Fabric of the Universe” and “The Elegant Universe”. The presentations were based on his books such as “The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.”Hugh Everett’s reinterpretation of Dr. Richard Feynman’s cosmological theory, that the world is a weighted sum of alternative histories, states that when particles interact, reality bifurcates into a set of parallel streams, each being a different possible outcome. In contrast to Feynmann’s theory and Everett’s interpretation, the parallel worlds of MIW do not bifurcate but simply exist in the same space and time. MIW’s parallel worlds are not a consequence of “quantum behavior” but are rather the drivers of it.
Two of the perpetrators of the century-long problem of unifying General Relativity Theory and Quantum Physics – Albert Einstein, Erwin Schroedinger.
Hall states in the paper that simple Newtonian Physics can explain how all these worlds evolve. This, they explain, can be used effectively as a first approximation in testing and expanding on their theory, MIW. Certainly, Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity completes the Newtonian equations and are not dismissed by MIW. However, the paper begins with the simpler model using Newtonian physics and even explains that some fundamental behavior of quantum mechanics unfolds from a universe comprised of just two interacting worlds.So what is next for the Many Interacting Worlds theory? Time will tell. Theorists and experimentalists shall begin to evaluate its assertions and its solutions to explain known behavior in our Universe. With new predictions, the new challenger to Unified Field Theory (the theory of everything) will be harder to ignore or file away with the wide array of theories of the last 100 years. Einstein’s theories began to reveal that our world exudes behavior that defies our sensibility but he could not accept the assertions of Quantum Theory. Einstein’s retort to Bohr was “God does not throw dice.” The MIW theory of Hall, Deckert, and Wiseman might be what Einstein was seeking until the end of his life. In titling this review of their theory as “The World is not Enough,” I would also add that their many interacting worlds is like a martini shaken but not stirred.References: Quantum Phenomena Modeled by Interactions between Many Classical Worlds
Professor Howard Wiseman, Director of Griffith University’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics and coauthor of the paper on the “Many Interacting World” theory. (Photo Credit: Griffith University)