Section 3

Lea Gundersen

Electromagnetic Rail Gun

Over the past few years, a new theory on weaponry has emerged that may revolutionize non-nuclear warfare. The idea of an Electromagnetic Rail Gun has been proposed since the 1950’s, but it has only become possible because of the changes in battery technology. A modern day rail gun, such as the one the US Navy has been working on, requires 33 mega-joules. To put this into perspective, a one- ton car colliding into a wall at 100 mph creates one mega-joule. Imagine 33 times this amount of energy all propelling a single 40 pound projectile thousands of miles per hour. If the numbers alone aren’t enough to interest you, then maybe an explanation of the machines basic properties will help. The machine has two large good conducting rails capable of withstanding a great amount of force. Current is then passed through each rail in opposite directions. Because of Maxwell’s Law, when a current is passed through the rails a magnetic field is then produced. This magnetic field is pointed towards the exit point of the barrel so the projectile can be propelled outward.  But, why would the military choose to invest in electromagnetic technology over the gunpowder and chemically driven weapons we have used for so many years? If you take a piece of iron and wrap a wire around the iron, nothing will change. However, if you pass a current through that wire, the iron will become a magnet, and its strength will increase with each wrap, the amount of current through the wire, and how closely the wire is wound. Scale this upward a few hundred times and you have a very powerful weapon or tool.

This type of weapon has several advantages and disadvantages. The Rail Gun does not contain any explosives or chemicals, but will still contain a guidance system that will put it on its target at pinpoint accuracy. Because of the vast amount of power behind the projectile, it will be able to travel hundreds of miles at speeds up to Mach 8. This will greatly help the US Navy whose ships cannot reach as far inland as may be needed. The 40 pound projectile will also be much more inexpensive than a cruise missile such as a Tomahawk, which costs up to 1.5 million dollars. It has only become possible during recent years that this weapon was made achievable because of its mass, size, and cost of energy required to power it. The shear force and heat that is created is so great that the machine must be made out of very strong materials.

With this new type of technology, can’t it be used for anything else? Of course it can. It has been proposed to be used as a space catapult to propel a ship out of the Earth’s orbit for a fraction of the cost it takes now with all of the rocket fuel. This would make space travel much more available to the world.

This machine is opening new doors and possibilities for the future in weaponry, travel, and power. For more information I encourage you to visit the video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OqlTXwLG40

References:

http://www.onr.navy.mil/~/media/Files/Fact%20Sheets/Electromagnetic%20Railgun.ashx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railgun

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2094413/Rail-gun-US-Navy-takes-step-hi-tech-electromagnetic-weapon.html

http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2004-06/electromagnetic-railgun

http://science.howstuffworks.com/electromagnet3.htm

Section 4

Jon Powers

The History of Dimensions

Hello my name is Jon Luke Powers and today I will be talking about the history behind the concepts of dimensions.  Since I’m not a physicist and no nothing about string theory I figure instead of trying to explain every little detail about dimensions when I know nothing about it.  I will instead tell you about the history of dimensions itself.  The earliest mention I could find of physicists involved in dimensional research was a Finnish theoretical physicist named Gunnar Nordström. Nordström first introduced the concept of dimensions in the field of physics in 1914.  Essentially he introduced an extra dimension to our spacetime so that gravitation would be presented in a more modern setting.  Although Nordström was the first to come up with extra dimensions he was really not recognized for that though since he was more known for his theory of gravitation.    The next two innovators in the study of dimensions were Theodor Kaluza and Oskar Klein.  They are known for coming up with Kaluza-Klein theory in 1921.  The Kaluza-Klein theory is a basically a conceptual model that seeks to unify the two fundamental forces of gravitation and electromagnetism.  While Theodor Kaluza proposed the theory Oskar Klein came up with the idea that the fourth spatial dimension is in the shape of a circle.  This theory contrary to Nordström’s work was well received and later paved the way for Albert Einstein and his work on relativity.  Now as far as Einstein himself goes he focused on the temporal dimension or simply the time dimension.   The time dimension itself is considered the fourth dimension.  Einstein with his theory of relativity emphasized that time is relative and not absolute contrary to previous belief.  Einstein himself stated that:  “Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated.  It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence.”

Of course Albert Einstein is tremendously recognized by his theory of relativity as well as several other accomplishments.  It also turns out he was colleagues with Gunnar Nordström and were usually in friendly competition with each other.  On two occasions Nordström even nominated Einstein for the Nobel Prize in physics.  Although he never received the prize since at the time with the evidence being experimental the relativity theory could still be disputed.  So on to 1978 where three French physicists; Eugène Cremmer, Bernard Julia and Joël Scherck came up with 11-dimensional supergravity theory.  So basically what this theory is it’s a combination of the principles of supersymmetry and Einstein’s work on general relativity.  To give a brief explanation on what supersymmetry is since I never heard of it before doing this.  The definition is a hypothetical symmetry among groups of particles containing fermions and bosons, especially in theories of gravity.  Overall several other physicists worked the theory itself on until three physicists named Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, Sergio Ferrara and Daniel Z. Freedman worked on ironing out the details.  As far as today goes we have Dr. Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking to name a few who are currently the leading physicists who still look into the subject of dimensions.

References

Ravandal, F.  (2004, May 06).  Cornell university library.    Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0405030

Giorbran, G. (2007, April 10).  Everything forever.    Retrieved from:                                                                                                http://everythingforever.com/einstein.htm

Section 5

Tom Chapman

The Space Elevator.

Space; a destination that mankind has dreamed about for centuries. It was only a dream until recently, and as technology developed and improved, Earth finally put a human being on the moon. We have sent ships as far as mars, but out of all of these trips, still only a handful of humans have actually been in space. We have barely scratched the surface of the “final frontier”, and yet these small trips have cost millions of dollars.

That being said, what if someone had an idea that would reduce the cost of space travel immensely, and in turn, open up an infinite number of space travel destinations. What if we could place a human being on Mars, or even Pluto? An idea that would allow such possibilities would have to be so crazy, people would claim that it was straight out of a Science Fiction novel. Enter the Space Elevator – an idea that made it to the mainstream via Arthur C. Clark’s “The Fountains of Paradise”, a science fiction novel written in 1979.

Simply put, the Space Elevator – as of today’s current design – will be a cable that reaches far into space and will be attached to a counterweight such as the International Space station, perhaps, or another device. It will have the power to rise up and down, and bring people to space and back down to Earth.

As wild as an idea as this surely sounds, this is a concept that is in the early stages of construction as of this writing. Let’s dig into things a little further, to see how this wild idea will actually work.

How on Earth (Interesting play on words?) can we build a CABLE, of all things, that could carry hundreds of pounds on an elevator, far into space? The current goal is 62,000 miles into space to be more exact. The reason that this is possible today is because of the beautiful discovery of Carbon Nanotubes in 1991 – Currently the strongest substance known to science – roughly 100 times stronger than steel and as malleable as plastic.

Once the 62,000 miles worth of cable is created, it would then be launched into Lower Earth Orbit, and dropped back down to Earth, where it would then be caught and attached to an anchor. The higher end would then be attached to it’s counterweight in space. The interesting part – how will this thing stay taught? I’m glad you asked. Thing of spinning a yo-yo or spinning a tetherball around a tetherball pole. The pole – or your finger – is Earth, and the yo-yo AKA tetherball is our counterweight. The counterweight is put into a perpetual spin around the Earth, as the Earth rotates, and is kept taught.

All of this sounds pretty wild and a bit scary, I’m sure – and it is! There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered. Again, we discovered carbon nanotubes a few years ago, but we’ve still never built anything longer than a few centimeters. We just haven’t had the technology to manufacture any more than that easily. Once this obstacle is overcome, the rest of the Elevator is easy, as far as NASA is concerned. We have all of the technology and supplies to create all of the moving parts that will be attached to the cable. Not only that, there are other questions that have been raised – how on Earth will we keep it safe from random airplanes, terrorists, or space debris? All great questions that REALLY need to be dealt with, but those are for another paper, perhaps.

Lets dig a little deeper into this and see exactly WHY this is amazing, aside from the fact that we could ride an elevator 62,000 miles into space on a thin cable. One of the biggest obstacles in our path, for space travel, is fuel. We spend millions of dollars on rocket fuel alone, just to launch a rocket TO space. If a space elevator existed, said rocket would be lifted into space and THEN launched from space. Why is this so amazing? Physics! Not only is the nasty cost of fuel in our way, we’ve also got this thing called gravity, that just keeps us down.

We’ve spent a lot of time reading about gravity over the past few weeks, so I’m sure everyone knows the hows and whys by now. When we launch a rocket into space, we burn tons (literally) of fuel just to fight the force of gravity, which is pulling the rocket towards the Earth the entire time. Once the rocket is in space, away from gravity, things are a bit different. Thing’s float in space. There’s no resistance for the rocket to have to fight and push against.

Let that sink in for a moment. What IF we had that elevator that lifts that rocket into space, and THEN the rocket launches? Without getting into some serious numbers, we can simplify things a bit, and say that the amount of fuel that it takes to get the rocket out of Earths gravitational pull, would then be saved until the rocket was in space, and then the rocket would be launched – allowing the rocket to use that same amount of fuel, again, just to get to space, to get to a destination much farther – Pluto. This wild but simply idea would allow other wild and crazy ideas to come to reality – Colonizing other planets and moons, mining on other planets.

62,000 miles – The trip will probably take roughly 7 days. Hopefully elevator music improves…

References:

Boucher, M. (2011, July 26). Michio kaku explains the space elevator for the daily show. Retrieved from http://www.spaceelevator.com/2011/07/michio-kaku-explains-the-space-elevator-for-the-daily-show.html

Dorminey, B. (2012, July 5). Space elevators to the cosmos: ‘next stop, low earth orbit’. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2012/07/25/space-elevators-to-the-cosmos-next-stop-low-earth-orbit/
Section 6

David Sherman

Hello and salutations, thank you for deciding to read my little blog. I hope it will be informative and inspirational. Today l am going to talk about what Brain-computer Interface is, and where it might be going in the very near future. This is a relatively new technology, but it has been in sci-fi stories and films for a very long time.  Now it is becoming science fact and the benefits are already being felt.

Now then where to begin? Well at the core of it I suppose, which is essentially what brain-computer interface (or BCI) is all about. It literally is connecting the human brain to a computer to control something for the user. The primary means for the development if BCI is to aid people who have sustained paralyzing injuries. Many of the patients who have undergone BCI have been able regain functionality and to some degree independence from the extremely limited life paralysis brings.

In a talk by Dr. Michio Kaku he speaks about how researchers at Brown University implanted a BCI chip into a man who had a stroke. After his stroke he was completely paralyzed, he can’t even speak. However, a few hours after implantation this BCI chip he began to control a computer with the power of his mind. It started small at first by just moving the cursor around the screen, but now he can do anything you can do on a computer with just his thoughts. With a good computer and the proper programing he could drive a car with his mind if he so chose. Dr. Kaku suggested that in the near future we might get the Internet in our mind, through contact lenses. I think it will be much simpler, just a microscopic chip implanted in our visual cortex and bingo, Internet heads up display.

This goes even further, Scientist at Northwestern University in Chicago have been working on bypassing damaged and severed nerves using BCI and a device called FES (functional electrical stimulation). The FES system is wired into muscles of an arm or a leg and with BCI the functionality of the paralyzed limb is restored to remarkably fine levels of control, now this is of particular interest to me. I was in a car accident when I was young and I have nerve damage in all of my limbs. It is not life threatening or anything, but I have what the doctors have deemed “feedback.” The signals that go from the brain to my limbs is partially disrupted and it creates signal echoes and feedback, sort of like putting a microphone near a speaker. You get that ear-piercing whine. Except with my “feedback” it’s pain, so everyday tasks are literally painful for me. The only way to relate it to some one who does not have this feedback is to ask you if you have ever had your arm or leg “fall asleep.” When it “wakes up” and that pins and needles pain you get when trying to move it or when you touch something is what I experience all the time. It never goes away, it has been over fifteen years since I’ve seen a doctor about it. At the time there was absolutely nothing they could do to repair the damaged nerves or the other damaged that was caused in my accident. The doctors simply said learn to live with it. While the technology to repair the other damages I suffered from the accident are still decades if not further away. This new BCI technology may prove to be a wonderful thing for me. Perhaps one day BCI will be able to enhance or “clean” up the feedback that occurs whenever I try to simply move my limbs. Eliminating the pain caused by the feedback and slight hiccups in signal that happen every now and then.

The other side of BCI is robotic assistance. BrainGate is being developed under a collaboration between Brown and Stafford Universities. Recently they helped a quadriplegic woman serve herself coffee for the first time in years. BrainGate focuses more on allowing the user to control a robotic arm like some kind of crazy remote controlled toy. It process the thoughts through a chip implanted in the motor cortex of the brain and it learns how you would have moved your own limb. It then translates that and learns with you. The arm itself is quite amazing in and of itself; it has smart technology that operates in a safety mode. Where it will not crush the containers it grabs and if it bumps into something it stops. Perhaps in the future this side will branch; one side will be robotic suits a person could wear with other robotic drones assisting and the second would be a further blending of machine with cybernetic technology.

Both avenues of research are quite amazing and both have vast possibilities. It will be something I will be keeping an eye on in the years to come and I can’t wait to see what BCI holds for us in the very near future. Imagine what BCI could go for gamers the world over.

References

Grabianowski, E. (2007). How Brain-computer Interfaces Work. Howstuffworks.com. Retrieved August 15th, 2012, from http://computer.howstuffworks.com/brain-computer-interface.htm

(Uploaded by) ASU (2009, Feb. 3) SCI FI or SCI Fact Part 3. Youtube.com. Video clip retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Llt4GhGnRk&feature=relmfu

Ziff Davis. (2012). Extremetech. Retrieved August 9th, 2012, from http://www.extremetech.com/tag/brain-computer-interface

Anthony S. (April 20, 2012). Researchers create brain-computer interface that bypasses spinal cord injury paralysis. Extremetech.com. Retrieved August 8th, 2012, from http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/126773-researchers-create-brain-computer-interface-that-bypasses-spinal-cord-injury-paralysis

Anthony S. (May 17th, 2012). Paralyzed woman uses first mind-controlled robot arm. Extremetech.com. Retrieved August 9th, 2012, from http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/129499-paralyzed-woman-uses-mind-controlled-robot-arm

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