Mysteries That Have Actually Been Solved By Physics
Physics has given us many wonderful things, from inspiring the Cern Super Collider to encouraging young scientists to pursue the still burning questions the Universe has yet to answer. It is a science that takes years to understand, and at times, just as long to explain. Many concepts of physics have been applied to works of fiction, but much of it is based in theoretical equations.
Theoretical physics is for the more advance crowd, so to keep it simple, here are a few ‘mysteries’ that have been solved by physics:
1. What is Light?
Some people believe that light is pure energy, but it is actually not. Indeed it lacks mass, but it is made of quantum molecules known as photons. A single one is the smallest bit of possible light.
The following are some of the properties of photons, the building blocks of light:
• Wavelength – The spatial distance between the peaks of a photon’s wave
• Frequency – the number of times that the wave reaches a peak in a unit time at a fixed location
• Wavevector – the photon’s direction of propagation, in addition to the number of wave peaks that exist in a unit length
• Period – the time between two peaks of the photon’s wave at a fixed location
2. Why Is Space Three-Dimensional?
We watch 3D movies and have 3D holographic cards and singers, but what is it that shapes our world and allows us to perceive it so? Space-time, as I understand it, is four-dimensional, with time being the fourth.
According to phys.org, “scientists propose that space is 3D because of a thermodynamic quantity called the Helmholtz free energy density. In a universe filled with radiation, this density can be thought of as a kind of pressure on all of space…”
The research of scientists observing this phenomenon postulate that our 3D space was “frozen into” its current state at some point, thus preventing conversion to other dimensions or possibly universes.
3. Is the Universe Infinite or Just Very Big?
Most scientists will tell you the universe is infinite in the respect that we can perceive no end. Scientists have been able to observe a ‘cosmic horizon,’ a region of space that determines the end of the observable universe.
“That is as far as we can see and how big, empirically, we can observe the universe to be,” explains Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins University. “Of course, we are pretty sure it goes much further.”
It may not be what we consider infinite, but it is definitely mind-bogglingly massive in size.
4. Where’s All That Mass Coming From?
Ordinary matter accounts for only 4 percent of the observable universe. This is calculated by determining how much mass is needed to hold galaxies together and push them into large clusters.
The unseen matter can be measured by observing the way in which light from distant objects bends due to gravity’s influence. Dark matter accounts for all the matter that we cannot visually perceive. Although we have no visual evidence, test after test has supported the existence of dark matter.
Although we have been able to figure out that two forms of matter exist, the answer to what they’re each made of has yet to be found.
5. Black Holes Don’t Suck Up Everything
Since they are the result of collapsed stars, we should not be surprised that black holes emit some sort of radiation. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking discovered that black holes emitted thermal radiation as the result of the particle-antiparticle separation.
Hawking radiation has been observed in a laboratory setting, but in the cosmos, such a thing is still theoretical. Many believe, though, that Hawking’s research is enough to prove the existence of Hawking radiation.
The radiation itself is observed just outside the event horizon or edge of the black hole. The fact that enough evidence has been gathered to even theorize black hole radiation is amazing.
For the radiation to exist would mean that black holes do not suck up everything as science has previously believed.
The universe still presents us with even more questions as time goes on. What we known of the observable universe is minuscule compared to the multitude of stars that exists. To answer the more head-scratching question of physics, will likely require experimenting out in space itself. Until then, we can only be satisfied with the answer we have now and hope our greatest minds can find the answers to the questions everyone has been asking.