Tag Archives: physics

Life the Universe and Everything – explained.

I wrote this in response to someone talking about the Horizon program on last night called ‘what is reality’ – at this point I still haven’t seen this program yet, but it made me think about a program with Ben Miller last week called ‘what is a degree’… this is what I wrote:

here goes… *deep breath

So while I enjoy shows that proclaim to uncover reality, what they really do is explore a certain model of what they think reality is.

That’s why the ‘what is a degree’ show was so fascinating. It peeled back the layers of what we know and experience right down to pure simple science. I wish I’d paid more attention, but there was an experiment to show what happens to liquids when you approach absolute zero – if I remember right (and I fucking hope I do!) it showed that liquid can flow through previously solid objects because of a weird quantum effect near absolute zero when the molecules in the liquid have no energy. You can never reach absolute zero, its a physical impossiblity – like running out of numbers calculating pi. But temperatures approaching absolute zero cause matter to act in a quantum way. Heat as a concept was discounted in the programme as the measure of heat is simply how quickly atoms etc vibrate due to the amount of energy they have. Higher energy, the molecules vibrate faster = more heat given off. Lower the energy the molecules vibrate more slowly, less heat is given off. If you take away all energy you are at absolute zero and all molecules are still, which is a physical impossibility. But at temperatures approaching absolute zero molecules are as near as fuck it still, and begin to exhibit quantum behaviour. There are no ‘bonds’ between the molecules, no movement or energy to keep things together so they just flow. The only law of physics left to cause an effect on the molecules is gravity, so liquid stays at the bottom of the jar in the experiment and simply falls through anything at the same temperature.

‘Edit’ – Excellent, here is the clip in question from Horizon ‘what is a degree’. Lets see If I have remembered correctly…!

So, what I’ve learnt :D Without energy the entire universe would be still, matter (and antimatter, whatever else is out there I suppose) would be entirely still, but if you were to push it, it would just flow. There is no gravity, because there is no mass, as mass requires energy to exist by definition (this is what E=MC2 states). But we have established that absolute zero is impossible, so that means there is always a chance of a wrinkle, or a kink setting in to motion something that starts very small but eventually grows in to something very very, big and very very hot and full of energy, until drawing together unfathomable amounts of matter BANG it explodes until everything eventually dies back to cold and lifeless. Then like shoots in the spring it begins again. There is no concept of the amount of matter in the universe, nor of the concept of time, they are both irrelevant – the only thing that matters is that you cannot reach absolute zero, so ‘mutation’ will always spontaneously occur – friction making energy grow into gravity and all that.

…and that is the life the universe and everything in a nutshell. :D

e2a. There’s a couple of points obviously!

What is the Maximum temperature you can reach? I’m sure plasma has some weird properties at those mega high temperatures.

And what happens to solids at near absolute zero? … mind you they had roses in liquid nitrogen (or whatever) that just shattered because the bond between atoms are so weak, because they have so little energy. So I assume solid rock would just crumble to dust under its own weight and fall under gravity to the bottom of a jar

ee2a: It could also be part of everything that exhibits this behaviour of expansion/contraction – or everything all at once, or all at the same time, or not. How long it takes to do things is relative only to the thing it is being done to. Quite a lot of possibilites…!

eee2a: Reading the post again this morning, I think I now understand E=MC2. A couple of nuggets from Wikipedia (thanks Jimmy Wales):

The equation Emc2 indicates that energy always exhibits mass in whatever form the energy takes

Mass-energy equivalence is also explained:

Mass–energy equivalence does not imply that mass may be “converted” to energy, and indeed implies the opposite. Modern theory holds that neither mass nor energy may be destroyed, but only moved from one location to another. In physics, mass must be differentiated from matter, a more poorly defined idea in the physical sciences. Matter, when seen as certain types of particles, can be created and destroyed, but the precursors and products of such reactions retain both the original mass and energy, both of which remain unchanged (conserved) throughout the process.

…and finally when you look at what the equation actually means, you see that it very neatly fits in with the quantum properties of materials near Absolute Zero:

where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light in a vacuum. The formula is dimensionally consistent and does not depend on any specific system of measurement units. For example, in many systems of natural units, the speed (scalar) of light is set equal to 1 (‘distance’/’time’), and the formula becomes the identity Em'(‘distance’2/’time’2)’; hence the term “mass–energy equivalence”

so in this instance if E = 1, then M = 1 and C2 = 1.

so there!

eeee2a: More information on Particle theory, as explained on QI! Seems I’ll be looking into the ‘Higgs Field’ for future posts…