“Is time travel possible ?” asks Lachie (9)

Thanks for the question Lachie . My friend is correct, Albert Einstein thought that time travel would be possible because of something he called relativity. It seems to be about the time it takes to move through a given distance (space) and the speed of light. The faster you go the slower the time that has past. That is a very, very difficult idea to understand. Even I find it difficult ….. but lets try and give you an example

Suppose you could move through space at or around or about 186,000 miles per second, which is the speed at which light travels?

Say you were 9 years old when you left Earth in a spacecraft traveling at about the speed of light (which is much faster than we can achieve now), and celebrated only five birthdays during your space voyage. When you get home at the age of 14, you would find that all your classmates were 59 years old, retired, and enjoying their grandchildren! Because time passed more slowly for you, you will have experienced only five years of life, while your classmates will have experienced a full 50 years.

So, if your journey began today in 2018, it would have taken you only 5 years to travel to the year 2068, whereas it would have taken all of your friends 50 years. In a sense, this means you have been time traveling.

According to Einstein’s ideas you can only move forward in time you cannot move backwards. However we do not at the present time have any vehicle that could reach the speed of light so if you want to travel in time you might have to wait a little while.
(revised 23rd May 2018)

What happens to your eyes when you die? asks Olivia (12)

You did suggest Olivia that the eyeball might explode when a person died.  This is very unlikely. Look at the eye image below and try to identify the muscles in the eye. they will be attached to the two things that are constantly changing in the eye.

There are muscles attached to the lens and the iris.

When you die, your muscles relax. This causes the iris muscle contracts when this happens the eye is said to dilate ….like the image below

This is probably what your eye would look like  when you are asleep. Thanks for the question.

What does a dead star turn into? asks Liam (9)

Liam. Science is an interesting area of knowledge. It is recognised that it originates from an area of study called Philosophy. Philosophy (an Ancient Greek term) is about asking questions and for Science it is about asking questions about the physical and biological world. We ask the question and try to find the answers. For your question the answers are not easily found.

To try to answer your question, we have to know a little bit about the Sun. We know that in it’s centre there is an atomic reaction going on. It is not the type of atomic reaction we have in our Atomic Power Stations where we have an atomic ‘fission’ reaction occuring.

‘Fission’ means splitting something into two or more parts. The animation below shows a small atomic particle called a ‘neutron’  hitting a much bigger particle called an ‘atom’ . It splits forming more neutrons that hit other atoms, which break and form more neutrons………and on and on. This is a fission reaction and a lot of energy is released.

In the Sun the opposite is happening. Instead of fission we have fusion , the joining up of particles (Hydrogen atoms) to give Helium which creates lots and lots of energy. See the diagram below.

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Why would the Sun die? The main reason is that it runs out of Hydrogen. So what will happen then?  Firstly the Sun will get brighter. This will happen because of the helium that is produced. It will be pulled into the centre and begin to burn, adding more light and heat to the Sun’s radiation. Then as the hydrogen gets less and less the Sun will get cooler but at the same time begin to expand. It will become a Red Giant.

It is reckoned that it will expand so much that it will consume the Earth……that will happen in about 4 billion years time, however life on Earth will no longer exist in 1 billion years. This is because of the brightening of the Sun and the rising temperature of The Earth’s atmosphere, all the oceans will disappear and plant life will not be able to survive.

 

 

 

What natural phenomenon made the Mariana Trench? asks Sabine (9)

The Mariana Trench ….. I have been thinking about this and I think, worked out a way of explaining the answer to your question.

Firstly

Our planet, the Earth, is an interesting planet. It has a solid surface (we call the crust) that surrounds a molten (liquid) inside, called the mantle. Like a boat on water the surface floats on the molten liquid interior. Look at the image below:

Many millions of years ago the planet was just a hot molten sphere. Slowly the crust began to form. It didn’t all form at the same time so it became a little like a cracked egg shell with each bit floating and moving on the molten mantle. These pieces were the tectonic plates. The image below shows you the present positions of the tectonic plates.

You might be able to see what tectonic plate you are living on.

These plates are constantly moving (very, very slowly). When they bump into each other they can cause lots of problems, like earthquakes. The Philippine Plate and the Pacific Plate bumped into each other many millions of years ago  and this made the Philippine Plate sink below the bigger Pacific Plate …. and the result the Mariana Trench. See the diagram below.

Where is the Mariana Trench?

I hope this makes sense Sabine. Feel free to ask another question.

Yet more questions on Space and the Solar System from William, Kylan, German, Rob, Aidan, Gavin, Lucas, Jake, Thomas and Kylie.

Hello, yet more interesting questions. Many thanks. It is brilliant that you continue to ask questions. By doing so you maybe think that you are showing your ignorance, and you are. However it is important that you do show your ignorance because that is the way that knowledge and science develop. Scientists are constantly saying “I do not know how that happens” then “I will try to find out why it happens”. My answers to your excellent questions below might therefore not be direct answers but may be directed to helping you to find the answer yourself. You can be the scientist. Here we go …..

William asked “How many stars are there in space not including the Sun and what is the hottest planet in the solar system?”

William, the difficulty I have with this question is what do you mean by Space? Space is endless so for an investigation it is better to start with a smaller known area …such as our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Even then the answer is only an estimate ….about 1000,000,000 (a billion stars) and apparently it has been estimated that there are over 1000,000,000 Galaxies in Space.

Maybe the second part of your question has an easier route to an answer. Initially one might have thought that Mercury would have been hottest – it is the closest planet to the Sun! But I am wrong, Venus is the hottest, because of its atmosphere. Why do you think this is?

Kylan asked “Is Space endless?”

Kylan, the answer to this is YES. To us humans this must be a difficult thing to grasp. We are constantly living within confined areas. To think of something as endless is difficult to comprehend.
Kylan, a great but disturbing question.

German asked “Como se origino el universo?”

German, another difficult question. You are obviously in a group who specialise in asking difficult questions. That is brilliant, because that is what science is about, asking difficult questions. There is evidence that the Universe began some 14.8 billion years ago, the Big Bang. This evidence apparently comes from a something called CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background). I think I will leave it there. I have no doubt that the Big Bang idea will at sometime in the future be challenged. Another thing about science is that scientists are always trying to falsify other scientist’s theories (prove them wrong).

Rob asked “Why no one can go to the Mars?”

We will get there Rob. When I was at the Kennedy Space Centre there was a lot of talk about the proposed trip to Mars. They are even now investigating how astronauts can live in a small self contained environment for a number of years. We have got to the Moon, which is 384,000 km away, for Mars we will have to a travel a minimum distance of 54,600,000 km. Why do I say ‘minimum’ distance for the Mars trip and not the same for the Moon trip?

I think it may happen in your lifetime.

Aidan asks “Why doesn’t NASA use a Saturn V rocket to go to Mars?”

They have a Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Centre. It is massive. However they will need a more powerful (notice I don’t say bigger) rocket to launch a Mars probe which includes astronauts. The living module will have to be a good deal bigger than that used to get to the Moon and back.What do you think will be necessary for the astronauts survival?

An image of the engines of the Saturn 5 rocket  at the Kennedy Space Centre

 

Gavin asked “How does the Solar System work?”

Gavin, great question. I have already answered a similar question in a previous post. This was my answer to Rishi:

I immediately think of why does it work in the way it does? The centre of the Solar System is the Sun. The Sun is one of a group of stellar objects called stars. Our star was named, by somebody, in the past, as the Sun. Our star (the Sun) seemed to have attracted to it some massive lumps of matter/material which we call planets (planets are the biggest ‘lumps’ , the smaller ‘lumps’ are called asteroids and meteorites.

What has given the Sun the ability to attract these ‘lumps’?

You then have the amazing thing that these lumps move around the Sun. They are attracted to the Sun but do not fall into it. They rotate around it, why do they do that? . Or does the Sun rotate around them?

Lucas asks “How big is our solar system and do humans know if there are other solar systems?”

Lucas, NASA has a project called Keppler that is looking at other planetary systems. Below is an image of the space telescope that is doing this work. Note that our planetary system is the only one called the Solar System. All others are called planetary systems. The Kepler telescope has identified a number of other planetary systems and some of them are very strange. One system has two stars. Quite a few have Earth like planets. I wonder what it would be like living on a planet with two stars?

Jake asks “Will Mercury crash into the Sun in a million years?”

Jake, it is unlikely that Mercury will crash into the Sun. It is thought that as the Sun gets older, it is now about 4 million years old, it will begin to expand  and eventually destroy Mercury and Venus and the Earth. It is reckoned that this is likely to occur in 4.5 million years time.

Thomas asks “How does the Sun create radiation?”

Thomas, how many types of radiation do you know about? There is visible light radiation,  ultraviolet light radiation, and infrared radiation.  However, there is another type of radiation which produces all of these types of radiation.

The Sun’s radiation is created by a nuclear fusion reaction in its core. This nuclear reaction produces very high energy gamma radiation which, as it passes from the inside of the Sun to the outside, is converted to the other types of radiation listed above.

Kylie asks “Why does Saturn have rings?”

Great question Kylie. Saturn is one of the largest planets in our Solar System. It therefore has a great gravitational attractive force. It has 60 Moons! It is thought that the rings have been created by this gravitational force attracting lots of the bits and pieces that each year enter our Solar System. Bits and pieces like asteroids and meteorites. Gravity is an important feature of our Solar System. Have you any questions about Gravity? I would like to hear them.