Tag Archives: gravity

Colliding Stars May Create Black Holes. Something Weird Is Happening In The Cosmos.

Colliding black hole neutron star

A new report in The Astrophysical Journal claims that two stars may have just collided to create a black hole. If this is true, it may radically alter our understanding of how these super structures are formed. The alternative is potentially just as crazy sounding, that two neutron stars can fuse.  Either way, something very large and exciting has happened in deep space.

Colliding black hole neutron star

A black hole traps any light within its gravitational pull. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Colliding Stars In The Deep

In an event widely discussed in the Astronomy community, August 2017 saw two distant neutron stars collide.  As well as providing detailed information about how elements may be formed and even further proof of gravitational waves, little could have prepared us for what came next.  We were left to wonder, what became of the cosmic dance partners?

 

black hole colliding neutron

Neutron stars can collide, but new data has revealed their fusion may create something dark. Image courtesy of Flickr.

In his report, Astrophysicist David Pooley asserts that the two colliding stars may have created a black hole.  The research examined the nature of electromagnetic waves emitted from the site. If the two stars had combined to form a larger one, what we understand of physics would dictate a high emission of such waves.

But actually, we have detected very little. An observation convincingly explained not by a ‘Super Star’, but a black hole.

Black Holes Born

Conventional theories surrounding the birth of a black hole suggest a gradual accumulation of matter under gravity. As the mass increases, it draws in more material and increases its gravitational strength.

At a certain point, the gravity is enough to prevent light itself from escaping.

So when you look for a black hole, you look for a hole in space. Where the light should be and is not, chances are a black hole exists. Usually these result from a supernova, where the mass of a star becomes incredibly small under its own gravitational weight.

supernova black hole colliding

Supernovae occur when larger stars explode. Although a sad end, it makes for a beautiful send off. Image courtesy of Flickr.

This new report expands on the circumstances in which such phenomena may develop. It may very much be that black holes are not just the result of a star dying, but a dark creation forged between two.

Research is ongoing, and we may have to wait a little while before the finding is proved beyond complete doubt. But in the mean time, we may have a new view of the darkness in the night sky.

So what do you think is really happening? And if black holes can form this way, what does it tell us about the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy?

What’s Next?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of  Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. Images courtesy of Flickr.

 

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Should A Chair Fear Your Bottom? Well Actually, Science Says No.

Whilst sitting across from an empty seat, you can quickly begin to wonder who may sit opposite you. With a global population of around 7.6 billion people, it could be just anyone. The chances are that you may not know them or the story of their lives. But more than likely, they have a bum. And for a chair, their entire life is about waiting for the next one. But should a chair worry about being sat on? Physics tell us no.

Half And Half Again

You may be familiar with the old conundrum of infinite reduction. It goes something like this;

If you were to drop an object to the floor, it would cover half the total distance of the fall. Then half again, and again. If this continues, it will never reach the ground. So how is it that it can?

On paper, this makes total sense. But drop that paper, and it quickly becomes nonsense. Mathematics has a term for these rules that logically sound, but cannot be tested properly in our Universe, or don’t play out like they should in our day to day lives. These are called Axioms, and are designed to help us develop new tools to understand and change our world.

So for the chair, the foreign bum should never land, but it does. So perhaps the chair cannot find solace in Axioms. But actually, the bum will never truly touch it at all. That’s where physics comes in.

Bums and Bonds

Our universe is held together by four cardinal forces. There is gravity, the weak and strong nuclear forces and electromagnetism. Combined, they can be used to explain (to a high level of accuracy,) most of what we observe in our day to day lives, as well as in the distant past and far future. Their limits are found at the quantum level, but even now theoretical physicists are breaking those boundaries.

So what does this have to do with a Bum? Well a bum, mine, yours and Kim Kardashian’s, is made up of skin, fat, muscle and beneath that bone. These tissues are made of molecules, and those molecules, atoms. Those atoms are made of subatomic particles, such as quarks. No matter what, matter is what you are made of. And this matter must play by the rules.

At the atomic level, the strong nuclear force binds atoms together, gluing protons (which will repel each other,) together using substantial energy, (it is the breaking of these bonds that gives us nuclear fission, as opposed to their formation also utilising the weak force that fuels the stars.) The protons opposite number, the electron, also fiercely repels others. And its at this level that your bum atoms interact with those of the chair.

Very Small Distances

At this tiny level, the interactions between electrons are rather predictable. An electron is a curious thing, showing both the behaviour of a particle (like sand,) and a wave (like sound.) This is called wave/particle duality and plays a large role in how things interact. Even photons, the irreducible energy packets of light, share in these rules.

From a particle perspective, the electrons of two opposing atoms (and thus their larger molecules) cannot touch. They can get close, half by half, but never quite meet up. From a wave perspective, their ‘wave packets’ (i.e, the amplitudes of the signal in space-time) can overlap, but never fall in sequence. This means that the elections, and with them your bottom and a chair, can never quite touch.

So actually the old mathematical axiom runs true, but the explanation can be found in our universe as well as in the equation.

So Should Chairs Fear Bums?

From a perspective of touch, not really. But when it comes to smells, regardless of the physics, we still smell them. The interaction of a particle (of lets say, perfume,) and the cells in your nose still interact. You need a particle of something in your nose to smell it (and even then, it is your brain that creates the smell!) So although physics means that the chair can never  truly feel the bum rushing down upon it, it can smell it.

As can you.

What’s Next?

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. Remember, fear is natural, but how you choose to deal with it is a choice.  Image courtesy of Jes