After their illuminating comic-strip video about the Higgs Boson particle, I found out today that, the geniuses behind PhD Comics have also created a similar video explaining the Dark Matter. These are mysterious substances that occupy a large portion of our universe, completely invisible to us outside research papers and they are heavy. They are heavier than the weight of the entire set of celestial objects like planets and stars and galaxies, that we know of, put together.
I was discussing space travel with one of my colleagues at office – yeah, that’s our idea of goofing off at work – and he was lamenting about the fact that the primary component of space travel technology has not changed since the 70s. We fill up massive tanks with liquid fuel and rapidly burn it through a funnel to push the spacecraft up and outside the earth’s atmosphere and we have been doing that for more than four decades now. And we spend billions of dollars to build those rockets. This is the same principle employed with the festival rockets used for fireworks.
The same stagnation of idea can be seen in energy sector, especially in the way we produce electricity. In the beginning we burned coal to boil water to produce vapor which turned huge turbines to produce electric current. Then we used big dams to boil water and turn those turbines. Then came along nuclear technology that enabled us to do what ? Exactly! Boil water to turn the turbines. Even the more recent technologies follow the same principle. Solar power uses hectares of photosensitive panels to boil the water and turn the turbines and natural gas does the same thing. Windpower – does not boil the water, but uses huge metal fans that turn the same freaking turbines. These turbines were invented more than a century ago in 1884 and , to me, it is incredible that we have not moved past this mode of electricity generation. And don’t even get me started with power cables that transmit the electricity from power plants to people’s homes.
Understanding the advanced stuff around us like the anti-matter, higgs boson particle and the dark matter could be our ticket to move past these old ways and into the future technologies which can truly advance our species. Sure, Siri and Kinect are awesome, but these are peanuts compared to the inventions and discoveries we need to solve our real needs like energy, climate and global food supplies.
Good thing is that more and more super smart people are choosing to work at science and research labs instead of going to Wall Street.
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