Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Why are there no 4D glasses?

My dad took me to see Star Trek- Into Darkness on Saturday. My mom only likes old movies with Romans in sandals or newer ones with Sean Connery in them, so we left her at home for this one. My dad's more into Star Wars than into Star Trek. But that's OK. Maybe it's because he always looks a little like Chewbacca if he doesn't shave for a while.

The film was in 3D and we had to buy a new pair of 3D glasses with our tickets (check out the Guardian's archive for an early review of its 3D quality here). I don't like 3D that much because it's always a bit darker and it feels like watching something through an aquarium. I have to wear glasses (because my parents don't trust me with contacts), so I have to wear my normal glasses under the 3D ones. And wearing two pairs of glasses for two hours makes my nose hurt.

Anyway. The film was alright, I thought. I liked Spock and Khan the most. My favourite scene was when Khan single-handedly took out a whole bunch of Klingons on Kronos. But I kept wondering why we had to watch it in 3D. I mean, there should really be a 2D alternative. Or a 4D one.

When we got home, I did a little research. I wanted to know how 3D glasses worked and if there was any way round them in a 3D film. I also wanted to know if 4D was an option for the next Star Trek film. This is what I found:

3D movies are projected onto the big screen twice, so what you see is actually two different sets of film. The glasses they give you then separate the pictures so that each eye only gets one picture each. (This is done by polarized films in the glasses. The two films are projected in a 45 and in a 135 degree angle. You can find out more about angles and on polarized films on mentalfloss.com here.) In the old days, cinemas used two different projectors to get the two pictures on screen. Nowadays, only one projector is used. The new projectors now use a system called RealD, which separates light rays in spirals. But the 3D effect itself has been around since 1936.

Check out RealD's website for a bit more information on those new projectors.

There are many different kinds of 3D glasses, but not all of them are used in the cinema. When you go to see a film in the cinema, you usually get a standard polarized set of glasses. (At home, people normally use red/green ones. You can find out more about the different kinds of glasses on this website). Normal polarized glasses work with something called 'stereoscopy'. They separate light rays so that only a few waves can reach each eye. This is then what creates the 3D effect because your brain reconstructs the depth and the distance of what you see with something called binocular vision. Binocular vision is pretty cool because it lets you figure out distance. It's what helps you catch stuff that is thrown at you. Or that makes you get hit in the face a lot if other people keep throwing stuff at you when you're not wearing your normal glasses.

So it turns out that - if a film is advertised in 3D - they can't just let you watch it in 2D because there's two images that are being projected on the screen. They also can't give you 4D glasses because the fourth dimension is time and we can't really see time.

Physicists use it for a lot of their calculations though. In our three dimensions, any given point can be localized by three coordinates, x, y, z. The fourth dimension gives it another coordinate named w. A square in 4D is called 'Tesseract' and looks like this:

There are quite a few crazy people in Physics and some of them work with up to ten dimensions. A lot of this has to do with something called 'string theory'. But I have no idea what string theory is about. And it's got nothing to do with 3D glasses, that's for sure. So if you want to know more about it, I suggest you ask your physics teacher.

I took the Tesseract image from Wikipedia. The Star Trek one came from www.totalfilm.com, the Chewbacca one from blancmaninc.com.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Can you put rocks in the microwave?

Yesterday my mom got really angry with me because she found one of my socks in our microwave. She wanted to heat up my dad's dinner and then saw that I had left it in there. While she was yelling at me, I was pretty glad I hadn't told her about all the other stuff I had put in earlier.

In school we were told never to put any metal in the microwave because it can create an electric arc (and a kitchen fire as a result). Microwaves work with electromagnetic waves that heat up water molecules (at around 2.45 GHz - check out this cool article on 'How microwaves work' on Universe Today for a more detailed explanation.) But I wanted to know what else you could put in the microwave (besides tasteless ready meals) without making it explode or splitting it into a million pieces. And because at school, we only ever cover fairly regular stuff and not the more exciting options, I decided to conduct a little experiment myself.

I wanted to see if you could put a rock, an aubergine, a football, an egg, a piece of dry wood, half a loaf of bread, two grapes, some gum and a bit of rubber tyre in the microwave. So I went out, got myself a few very different types of rock, took all my other ingredients out of my room and out of the fridge and set to work.

I found out some amazing things. My grapes were sizzling hot within a few seconds, but the best thing was that - when they split open - they also created this very cool light arc. (I later found out this is due to the gas that comes out of them. Check out this exciting blog entry on www.instructables.com and someone's YouTube video of the same thing here.)

My aubergine exploded big time! First, nothing happened. But after a while, it grew in size and then burst into a thousand pieces and blew the door open. When my mom cooks them, they never explode. I guess this is because she puts little holes in them, so that the steam can escape instead of building up inside.

I tried two different types of rock. One with a lot of mud on it and another one that was pretty clean. Nothing happened to the clean one, although it was a bit damp. When I took it out, it was a bit warmer, that was all. But the muddy rock cracked open and split into four medium sized pieces! There were quite a few blue sparks, so I guess there must have been some metal in it too. The water that was left in the mud probably made it crack open when it was heated up.

My gum just melted. It was not very interesting but it stuck to the turntable like crazy. I had to use some of my dad's lighter fluid to get it off. I hope his dinner didn't taste funny because of it.

My football didn't do anything for a while but then started smoking like a chimney. After a few seconds, it also had a huge hole burnt into the side.

The egg surprised me a little. It exploded alright (which is what I thought would happen). But it was easier to clean than I thought. And it didn't blow the door open.

Nothing happened to the bit of tyre. It just melted and stuck to the turntable.

The piece of wood dried out and showed some nice bubble action. This didn't happen to the bread. But when I got out the bread, my bread and the piece of wood looked very much alike.

So it turns out you can actually put rocks in the microwave. And loads of other stuff too. But it pretty much depends on the type of rock you use and on the materials it is made of. (Most rocks consist of two or more minerals. In the UK, you can find three different types of rock: granite, sedimentary rocks and so-called 'metamorphic' kinds of rocks. Here in the south-east, we've got a lot of sand rock and chalk. Check out this cool Open University site for more info on rocks in the UK.) It also depends on the amount of water that's still in your rock. If it's very muddy or if there is water trapped inside, it will crack open or split. And if there is metal packed inside (this will only happen with non-Granite ones), you will also get a few sparks.

I have to say it was an eventful afternoon. I did enjoy putting stuff in the microwave to see how it would work. But the cleaning was not too much fun. So if you're thinking of repeating my experiment, I suggest you use things that don't leave a huge mess or stick to kitchen walls and to glass.

During my research, I found that there are people out there who would microwave anything, even their iPods. But I think that's a bit too strange for me to try. Besides, I don't think my dad would be too happy about it. He's the only one in our family who actually has an iPod.

Anyway. Here's what it would look like:

I took the egg picture from a site called http://whatscookingamerica.net/. My own egg didn't look so good after exploding.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

So when was God invented, then?

On Sunday my friend Steve got kicked out of Sunday school for asking who invented God. He's a pretty strange kid too (he likes dismantling things). But on Sunday I think he just asked one too many questions. Our teacher didn't answer but got all red in the face and started yelling at him. Then he called his parents and told them to pick up their devil-child and not to bring him back.

I have to say I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. I always thought Sunday school was about learning something. (If you have never been to Sunday school, this story about Sunday schools in Britain will tell you what it's all about.) I even found this quote on a website called time4thinkers:

'What is Sunday School all about?
It’s an environment where you feel totally supported. You can ask the hardest questions as you’re figuring out how to apply spiritual truths to your own experiences.'

I am thinking of bringing it to Sunday school next Sunday and showing it to our teacher. But I have a feeling that this might tip him over the edge.

I thought Steve's question was really interesting. So I asked if it was OK for me to use it on my blog. His parents didn't want me to. But when they called my dad to complain about it, he said he had no idea what blogging was. My dad can be really funny sometimes.

Anyway. 'When was God invented?' is quite a difficult question to answer. Most people would say that he wasn't invented at all, but that he has always been around. (While we're on it, I have to say that I don't understand why God has to be a man. He might as well be a woman. But that's something that will have to wait until some other time. Here's a website on God and Science that goes some way in answering the question. It's still not very clear, but it basically says that 'God is not male, since He is not a physical, but a spiritual, being.')

For people who believe that earth was created in seven days, God has to be something that came first because otherwise he wouldn't have been able to create everything. This means that for creationists (that's what you call them), God was 'invented' before everything else. But for people who believe that God is only an idea, he has been around pretty much as long as people have, because they are the ones with the ideas.

Other religions such as Islam and Judaism have a God too. This complicates things a bit because some religions have been around a lot longer than others. It seems that people have always had to believe in some God-like creature, no matter where they're from. In ancient Greece, people even thought that there were several Gods sitting on a hill called Olympus. Those gods enjoyed messing with people, so they sent all kinds of challenges their way and watched them struggle. It's not clear when the Greek gods were invented but they pretty much died after the fall of the Roman empire. I think that Gods in general only live as long as the culture that believes in them.

Here's a cool website about all of the Greek gods and their relationships. (Check out this Wikipedia picture if you want to know what the Greek gods on Olympus looked like). I think you can say that every culture invents or discovers their own gods. And depending on the culture, these can then be around for quite some time or disappear when the culture that invented them goes down the drain.

The problem with Steve's question is that most people act a little crazy when religion is involved. I think this is because people have to believe in something that can structure their lives. But I don't think they should go all red in the face when they have to explain it to someone. If it is true that God gave his only son to the world as a payment for our sins - as we were told in Sunday school -, I'm sure he won't mind us asking a few questions about his age.

After all the stuff I found, I think it really doesn't matter if God was invented or if he has always been around. If you're a religious person, you should always act as if he's watching you. And if that helps you be a nicer person, it also doesn't matter if God is Jewish, Christian or if he is a Muslim.

I took the picture with the religious fanatic from http://bellitta.com. The picture of God was painted by Michelangelo.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Disabled People can be A-holes too

In school today we were told that 'political correctness' means to treat all people the same, no matter where they're from, who they are or what they look like. Our teacher said it doesn't matter if someone is disabled, white, black, male, female, short or strange, for as long as you treat them all as if they were normal. And he also told us that we should never call someone an idiot or an a-hole to their face. Especially when we're talking to disabled or to black people.

I didn't understand why calling someone who is black an idiot would be any more wrong than calling someone an idiot who is not. I was also confused why it was OK for my dad to call George from next door a 'little bastard a-hole' for hitting our cat for no apparent reason, and why it would be wrong for him to call him that if he was sitting in a wheelchair. I mean, to me it really doesn't matter if George is short or black or green. He would still be a giant a-hole bully for hitting our cat. So I did a little research and here is what I found:

Most people don't know what 'political correctness' means. There is an Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook by someone called Henry Beard (check out the book on Amazon). But most people think that 'political correctness' means not to say or do something you really want to say or do because it is not allowed. Check out this article by someone called BJ Gallagher in an American newspaper, who says that the way people understand political correctness has gone way too far and how it now controls almost everything we think and do.

I checked the dictionary and also did a little search online. It seems that political correctness has more to do with language than it has to do with what we think or do. What it means is that we should not use words that 'exclude, marginalize or insult people' on purpose. (I found this in the Oxford Dictionaries here). But it doesn't mean that we can't say what we think if someone like George behaves like a giant bully idiot.

On my way home, someone in an electric wheelchair hit me from behind because he was talking on his mobile phone and didn't look where he was going. He didn't say sorry or anything but drove on and hit a few of my classmates too. He was angry and started shouting at them because they didn't get out of the way.

My ankle still hurts from where he drove into me with his chair. So I think it should be OK for me to call him a rude idiot. Political correctness should mean that if you are an idiot or a giant a-hole, it should be OK for everyone to call you one, no matter if you're black, white, male, female, short or disabled.

The cat picture is from Pawnation.com.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

What happens if you fart in Space?

When Superman is on a mission to Krypton (or when he's orbiting Earth to pick up stuff from somewhere else), he can fly through space without a space suit. This is because he's super strong and doesn't need any oxygen or pressure regulating gadgets. But sometimes I wonder what happens to his farts up there.

I mean, he is up there for quite some time, usually. And  it's pretty cold in space. So, the question is: what happens if he has to cut one loose on one of his space missions? Will it become solid and then stick to his cape? Farts are gassy, after all. And in school we were told that gas becomes liquid when it's cold enough.

I found out that human farts consist of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and of hydrogen sulfide. The sulfide is what makes them smelly. But the other gasses are mostly there because of your digestion. Check out some interesting facts on farts on Brenna Lorenz' Blog here. As it turns out, Superman's farts are a bit of a mystery, so I just assumed that they are human.

I did some research on temperatures in space and it seems that space is pretty unpredictable. NASA says that temperatures in space are always around absolute Zero (-270 degrees Celsius). This is because space is a vacuum. But there is some back radiation that makes bodies a bit warmer or colder, depending on the sun (you can check out some rather complicated NASA stuff here). So what they're saying is that, if you're in the shadow of a planet, you could freeze to death at -180 degrees. If you're in the sun, you could happily burn at 115 plus. (I had to ask one of my teachers to explain the NASA stuff to me a little. Check out this website at Universe Today for an explanation of space temperatures that is a bit easier to understand.)

Anyway. For Superman this means that it pretty much depends on where he's flying and when. If he's got the sun in his face, farting might not be a good idea. Hydrogen sulfide is highly flammable, so he might burn his trousers off. If he's flying close to the Ozone layer, he might leave an explosive condensation trail because nitrogen reacts with ozone. And then everyone would mistake him for a plane.

But it turns out that some of his fart gas could actually end up in his cape. If Superman is flying at night and in the shadow of a planet, liquid nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide and methane can get stuck in his costume. Nitrogen turns into a solid state at around - 196 degrees, Methane at -161 and hydrogen sulfide at -82.

It's good to know that no one will ever see Superman with a wet cape from farting though because most of the nitrogen will be burnt off by the ozone layer on his way back from space. The rest of his skid marks will probably evaporate into our atmosphere on his re-entry.

If you ever wanted to know what happens to normal Astronauts when they fart into their space suits, check out these cool facts on sciencemuseum.org.uk.


I found the cool Superman picture on Odin's Ravens Blog.