The Alder Grove

"In my sleep thought that I was standing in an alder grove of the straightest and fairest trees which the heart of man could think of or imagine."

The Year That Science Fights Back

In a previous post, I talked about what brought me to this whole business of atheism, science and reason. It's pretty out in the open now via the power of Twitter! Since then, I have also joined the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science which lately merged with the Center For Inquiry so it will be exciting to see what the next year brings! And I think I picked a great year to start off in a more honest and grounded way because thus far, it's shaping up to be a fantastic year. I have dubbed 2016 as the Year That Science Fights Back.

I have to stop here and talk about something that just happened that is incredibly cool. I have to talk about this because Dr. Krauss has spoken (and tweeted) about this so much and he relays information so beautifully that there is no way you can't be excited about it. His enthusiasm is so contagious that when the press conference was going on just a few days ago, I secreted myself away over in my corner, pretending to do work on the computer while in reality, I had my tablet tucked up right by it so that I could watch and listen. Luckily, it was not a busy day as I was not exactly the most productive member of the team, lol. I excuse this by rationalizing how important science is to my job. Ok, yes I am a retail peon...but I'm a retail peon that sells cool technology like home automation, wearable technology and other things that connect to the Global Positioning System and the Internet of Things. Science! (Feel free to yell that like Bill Nye.) BUT ... Einstein plays a key role in this as well. I'm totally now going to roll out some Lawrence Krauss/Brian Greene knowledge. I do this for your own good....and because I absolutely love talking about it and I mostly get blank stares at work.

So Einstein had two theories that I know you've all heard of - Special Relativity and General Relativity. Special Relativity deals mostly with how time isn't really what you think it is. It's got some really cool and totally crazy ideas in it that I'm not going to delve into right now. I might expound upon them in a later blog post but you really should go over to and take Brian's class on it - amazing. But I'm digressing a tad. General Relativity (which I'm going to be talking about here mostly) is how gravity affects spacetime as mass warps the space around it. And that if space could warp, it could also ripple when disturbed.

At any rate, this is one of my big takeaways that I use at work ALL the time because it's cool and I want to give more people a little science bit that they can take away and think about. Maybe they might actually think about how something that seems like obscure science actually affects their lives. And because...I'm a huge nerd and I'm going to lay some science on you whether you like it or not anyway. So, what you might not know is that you wouldn't be able to use GPS were it not for Einstein. GPS works by triangulating your position from satellites in orbit around the earth. Due to the speed at which light travels, in order to know where you are they have to be accurate to 20-30 billionths of a second. But part of special relativity is that the faster you go, the more that time slows down and the satellites travel about 8000 miles per hour. But general relativity also plays a role because gravitational fields also affect time. So without taking both of those into consideration, the GPS would be off by 38000 nanoseconds per day. It would basically stop working after 2 minutes and it would be off my 10 kilometers after just one day! How freaking amazing is that?!?!?!

So, unless you've been living under a rock, you will have heard the news that 100 years after Einstein predicted them in general relativity, LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (one in Washington and one in Louisiana), picked up gravitational waves coming from 2 colliding black holes in the area of the Magellanic Cloud. It took the waves about 1.3 billion years to reach us and within minutes they released 3x the mass of our sun (converted into energy...e=mc2, yo) and 50x the power of all the stars in the universe.

I'm going to give you a moment to ponder that. And for you to consider that gravity is considered the weakest force in the universe. I know, right? (I'm not going to advise you to prove it by pushing someone off the roof of a building, lol.) Some of you are going to know where that comes from. Anyway, this holds really cool things for the future. Dr. Krauss was cool enough to answer a question that I sent when he did his Einstein panel in his ASU Origins Project (check it out on YouTube because it was amazing). I wanted to know if the detection of gravitational waves might mean that they could potentially prove the multiverse theory. He mentioned that if they could detect the waves coming from the Big Bang they could test the model of inflation and see if it implies the existence of other universes. So that even if we couldn't directly see them, there would be strong indirect evidence of their existence. So cool. But think about all the other stuff we could find out going forward. There's been talk of gravitational astronomy to see things that using light has never before been able to show us, and possibly finding out about dark matter! And maybe...just maybe...there's that whole thing about extra dimensions that are a part of string theory. And that is just the stuff we know about...who knows the things they will find that no one knew to even ask the question let alone derive the answer for. Which likely leads to more questions.

"I've often said the two greatest states to be in if you're a scientist is either wrong or confused, and I'm often both." ~~ Lawrence Krauss

Going forward this year, I am seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson is speak in Toronto in just over a week, which is spectacular because he very, very rarely comes up here. I splurged and bought VIP tickets to perhaps have the opportunity to meet him and perhaps ask him some things. He is our *personal* astrophysicist after all. :) Then, in March I get to see Lawrence Krauss debate a theologian and a creationist which should be *awesome*. He comes back to Canada fairly frequently but I've never had the opportunity to go and see him speak or debate before. The amount of things that I learn from him I couldn't even begin to discuss. He's so active in the public sphere between Twitter, lectures on YouTube, his books, his scientific publications (which I read all the time even if I don't understand *everything*, especially the math part, lol) and the writing he does for The New Yorker. I will have to try very hard not to giggle with delight when he gets on a roll taking down the pseudoscience and religious nonsense at the Toronto debate. Usually I can't help it but I will try and behave in public. Try.

Then I have The World Science Festival coming up at the beginning of June in New York City where I will also endeavor to take in the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium this time. Then I'm heading down to Washington, DC for that weekend to attend The Reason Rally where Lawrence Krauss, Carolyn Porco and Richard Dawkins will be among the speakers. Yes, totally taking a selfie in front of the White House. I'm pretty stoked as I've never been to DC before and I can't wait to see it! Plus being in a crowd full of like-minded people is going to kind of refreshing for a change.

I'm going to stop there but I do have a diatribe coming up for the next post potentially. Peace, out. ~ L.