themadscientists

Gravity, soup-bowls and solar fusion – The aesthetics of spacetime

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2011 at 12:18

Dense galaxy-cluster bends space and the light that flows through it

A typical morning, the alarm clock gives off it´s terrorizing chirp of awakening as the sun peaks in through the drapes, invoking a craving for coffee and the promise of another day on planet earth.

The sun has been glowing in the sky for about 5 billion years, and if all goes well it will keep doing just that for another 5 billion years. No immediate danger that the oh so bright rays of the sun will disappear and make us drink our coffees in extreme cold and darkness anytime soon, in other words.

The sun didn`t just pop up in the sky after some deity flicked the cosmic light-switch. (although there are those who might advocate this) Nature is more subtle than that. In it`s infancy the Universe consisted mostly of Hydrogen, the simplest of all elements. These atoms were spread out pretty evenly across the fledgling Universe, but in some places there was a little more of them. This caused space itself to curve as a soup-bowl because of the slightly more dense mass-concentrations in these places, as Einstein predicted them in the General Theory of Relativity. Or more commonly: Gravity. Under you can see a micro-wave picture taken by the WMAP satellite, from a time when the Universe was only 380.000 years old.

The biggest mother of all, at the infant age of only 380.000 years

The blue bits are the most empty, and the density of Hydrogen increases as the color goes towards green, yellow and red. These bright spots are where the most hydrogen, and hence the deepest soups-bowls in space was first formed, resulting in more hydrogen from the surrounding space to roll down and into them. Compacting the matter harder and harder together until the first stars sparked into existence, fueled by hydrogen fusion.

As our astronomical imaging techniques have gotten more and more advanced, astronomers have been able to capture more and more of this weird space-curvature that materialize when matter and space push on each-other.

Illustration showing the dynamics of gravity-lensing

What space really is, and why it acts in this way, is still something of a riddle for the physicists. But hopes are that the Large Hadron collider and the possible discovery of the Higgs-field might shed some light onto the “matter.” 🙂

When something that seemingly is not there, changes the direction of something that is there. Then the wonders of the imagination can play around a little in the morning, and the coffee might even taste a little better as I feel the rays of the Sun warming my face after traveling along the porcelain of our little gravitational soup-bowl.

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  1. Hi! Wanted to tell I read your blog 🙂

    I see similar tv-shows that you write about here at home. Also tried to make Mette see them without much luck…..

    Olav

    • Hi! 🙂

      These are interesting times in the world of physics and mathematics, big and earth-shattering discoveries are most likely right round the corner.

      When it comes to Mette, we just have to explain to her that haute couture, as in color and material properties are just physical and mathematical components based in the quantum world.

      All the best, and see ya soon!

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