What I learnt Last Week 32: Light into Matter, Pacific Garbage, Bootlace Worm, Dravidian Languages & TRAVEL
Been a while since I've done one of these, which is a shame because SO MUCH has been accomplished during the last few weeks. I'm only going to cover last week, soz!
Monday: Light into Matter
For the most uninformed of us, we are at the very least aware of E=MC2, or E2=m2c4+p2 c2 or whatever else those pesky physicists mess around with.
Essentially, it's a mass-energy equivalence. Energy is equal to a certain amount of mass (x the speed of light in a vacuum squared - Physicists feel free to fill in the gaps in the comments).
What this means is that a lot of energy is created when matter converts to energy via means of, say, a nuclear bomb. A human could hypothetically be converted into about 8.1×10^18 Joules of energy... if you had the right amount of antimatter.
But an idea from 84 years ago supposes we could do the same thing in reverse; changing energy into mass. This has never been able to be demonstrated and thus proven.
The idea is to simply smash two photons together to create an electron and a positron, and now at UCL, the tech and funding exists to give it another shot.
In this experiment, one laser shoots out photon beams with 1000x the energy of visible light, andd another is firing photon beams with a billion times that of visible light. These are fired at separate targets and the researchers will rummage for positrons in the aftermath.
This is one experiment to be done at CERN and may hope to unlock more secrets of the Universe dating back to 100 seconds after the big bang. Good luck!
Tuesday: Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Over the last year or so, I've been focusing on my plastic using habits. Often I despair at simply how much I'm still using. It's a tough habit to break. In a country where drinking water does not come from the tap, we can only get our source of waterr from single-use, plastic bottles.
To compromise on this, I only buy large bottles, requiring less surface area to contain a larger volume. I decline straws and plastic cutlery wherever I can, take my own bags shopping, and have a few other similar habits growing by the week.
This has thankfully bloomed into a kind of viral phenomenon since the release of Blue Planet 2, so much so that it's been called The Blue Planet Effect, where businesses and individuals have become far more plastic-conscious.
But that's about where the good news ends. You may have heard of the swirling plastic dumps that have accumulated in the pacific, dubbed The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). If so, you may want to know that they are actually much larger than initially thought.
The size is comparable to... brace yourselves... France, Spain and Germany combined.
That's about 16x more than original estimates in terms of mass; about 500 jumbo jets. 500 giant planes might not seem like much over three countries of area, but that's actually one of the more concerning features. Microparticles are some of the most dangerous of all plastic forms, because they get eaten and trapped inside animals that either die andd get eaten by other big fish, or us. To make matters worse, microparticles are nigh on impossible to clean up.
Don't think it's all about Asia or whatever either. Between Hawai and california, the researchers found 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic.
There are some clean up initiatives that claim to be able to clean half of this mess up within 5 years, but at the moment we can only say that's wishful thinking. In terms of mass, 90% of the trash is larger and easier to capture, so there's that.
Wednesday: Extra Long Bootlace
Ok better start keeping these short now.
Did you know the Blue Whale isn't the longest animal ever? At 30 metres, they're pretty long. But the Bootlace worm - WORM - can reach 55 metres in length - but only 10mm wide.
Thursday: Dravidian Language
The study of language is utterly fascsinating to me, how it evolved, how it came to be, incredible stuff.
The region of India is particularly intriguinig since it maintains over a thousand languages in small pockets here and there.
One family of 80 languages, the Dravidian languages spoken by 220 million people across India and surrounding countries, has been traced back to be particularly ancient, back 4,500 years.
You may just recognize one; Tamil, which reaches back further than the others and considered a 'classical' language much like Sanskrit - but Tamil has more continuity in historical documents in poems, stories and so on.
Friday: A Sense of Self
Not actually how one expands the mind
I'd like to finish off with some hipster talk, like yo.
Being somebody who has lived most of their adult life abroad, I do believe that it has caused me to grow as a person to a greater extent than I would have if I stayed back in my home country of England.
Being abroad forces me to adapt, but also forced exposure of things I would otherwise simply not care to bother with; international news and culture, language and people. I would simply hang around with white, English friends at the pub after a hard day at the office doing something people do in offices (I can't even think of an example).
Well now my superiority complex has research to back it up. A study found that:
...living abroad increases "self-concept clarity," the extent to which individuals' beliefs about themselves are clearly and confidently defined and consistent and stable over time.
An increase of 'self-discerning reflections' were present in people living abroad, where individuals hadd a tendency to battle with contrasting values and traditions, which helps define who a person is, filtering out the things that are simply cultural.
Research aside, living abroad truly does enrich you beyond that of simply visiting places for a week or so. I strongly encourage anyone who has the freedom to do so, to do so now! Best choice I ever made.