Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fun With Science

Today during AGN lunch, we got onto the frequently hackneyed topic of NASA and the NSF and how to actually be able to do real science when the administration (and thus the goals of this, that, and the other) changes frequently. For example, astronomers can be relied on to actually come up with viable science projects to do on the moon should that particular mission come to fruition. This kind of reliability makes NASA like astronomers. Biologists can't be relied on like this, it seems. When the space station became a big deal, astronomers realized, hey, we can try to capture a few cosmic rays, but other than that, there just isn't much science we can do, so we're not going to waste your time. So the poor astronauts are stuck with these awful biology "experiments." Like the one with the hamsters. Let's make space suits for hamsters and see how they respond to microgravity, or something. The thing is, no one managed to remember (or realize) that hamsters pee like once every four mintues. All of the hamsters drowned in their own urine in less than one orbit.

Fast forward to cosmology class. Today we learned about the first 10-11 seconds of the universe, and, specifically, we touched on the expected phase transition at that time. Woohoo! Such a discussion naturally leads to that of particle accelerators. In particular, there's the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), which was the first collider to reach energies at these kinds of scales. Apparently, before it was first turned on, there was a question as to if this collider would cause some phase transition in the present-day universe, thereby, uhm, destroying the known universe. "This would have a negative environmental impact." But, hey, if we accidentally destroy the universe, who's ever going to know, right?

1 comment:

Trekker said...

I've chosen to limit my research to the first 10 to the minus 11 seconds of the universe. Sorta in the beginning . . . So much going on. It all started with this one little fuzz ball.