A Scientist Explains Why The Enterprise Can’t Go Underwater

In Star Trek Into Darkness the USS Enterprise hides underwater on an alien planet. You can see the moment in the latest trailer, and Ain’t It Cool’s Mr. Beaks, who has seen the first nine minutes of the film, explains that the ship is hiding there in order to not violate the Prime Directive on a pre-first contact planet. That means the ship is underwater on purpose, not because of some crazy event. Despite having shuttle craft and transporters, the ship has come to the planet’s surface.

This is physically unlikely in an enormous way, and occasional Badass contributor Raymond Wagner explains that below. Ray has a PhD in electrical engineering and is a research engineer working in the space industry. He’s one of the guys paving the way for Starfleet.

Here’s Ray, giving you the science side of this:

I’ll go on the record as saying that I wasn’t a fan of the Enterprise being assembled on Earth and then flown up to orbit in 2009’s “Star Trek”. Matt Jefferies’ original design was a true spaceship, and all the design elements were focused around a ship harnessing powerful and dangerous forces to travel between stars. It was anything but aerodynamic, and if the parts were built on Earth, they probably should’ve been assembled on orbit. Those Trek ships that are capable of atmospheric flight tend to look like it - take the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, with its wings, and (though I hate to mention it) Voyager, with its more flattened-out, lifting body-like profile. Anything else (including the Enterprise in TOS) tends to, at most, only dip the occasional toe into a planet’s atmosphere in an emergency.1

Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman have the keys to the kingdom, though, so I’m willing to let them play the artistic license card and roll with it. But this whole Enterprise-under-water business has gone too far! Like most spacecraft, the Enterprise is designed to keep between one and several atmospheres of pressure in, while the ship itself is exposed to the vacuum of space. This is a very different job than keeping out the pressure from tons of sea water over your head2. It just strains credibility to the breaking point to ask us to believe that those poor Starfleet engineers were told to take flying under water into account in their ship designs. How often can that even need to happen during your average mission? Spoiler alert: like, never. Or hardly ever. You just wouldn’t build that sort of thing into your space ship’s requirements. I suppose you could technobabble your way out of any criticism like this with structural integrity fields and blah, blah, blah, but come on - that’s the sort of thing that eventually killed the TNG-era run of Trek. If we’re already at that point two movies into the reboot, we’re in real trouble.

1. There was actually a nod to the saucer section being capable of landing in the re-design for TMP, with four landing gear hatches included on the underside of the model, but this was never exploited in the TOS-era movies. And, of all the parts of the Enterprise, this is really the only one that makes any sense in an atmosphere.

2. For every 33 feet you descend in the sea, the pressure over your head increases by 1 atmosphere. So, if something as big as the Enterprise is really hiding under water like all those extended trailer descriptions indicate, it’s probably going to want to go deep to be stealthy. And it won’t take much depth to generate some crazy pressures!

Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward firing machine guns?

The GAU-8 Avenger fires up to sixty one-pound bullets a second. It produces almost five tons of recoil force, which is crazy considering that it’s mounted in a type of plane (the A-10 “Warthog”) whose two engines produce only four tons of thrust each. If you put two of them in one aircraft, and fired both guns forward while opening up the throttle, the guns would win and you’d accelerate backward.

To put it another way: If I mounted a GAU-8 on my car, put the car in neutral, and started firing backward from a standstill, I would be breaking the interstate speed limit in less than three seconds.

This is rapidly becoming my favourite website of all time.

The Sun Is the Most Perfect Naturally-Occurring Sphere in the Universe

Stereo image of the sun

After 50 years of research, we’ve discovered a strange, beautiful fact about our Sun: it’s more perfectly round than anything else in the natural world. It’s not the roundest in a certain category; it’s just the roundest sphere there is. If it were a beach ball, The Guardian writes, it would be a hair’s width away from complete perfection.

Most planets exhibit some sort of a bulge at their equator because of their rotations. Jupiter’s spin, for example, makes it about 7 percent wider. So you’d naturally think the Sun shared some of those properties, but you’d be wrong—the bulge at the Sun’s equator turned out to be relatively minuscule. The Sun is about 1.4 million kilometers across. The distortion at its equator? A mere 10 kilometers. The only thing we know of that’s rounder is a manmade, artificial silicon sphere.

Until recently, Earth’s atmosphere distorted our view in such a way that we couldn’t get accurate measurements. Using instruments from Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, scientists were finally able to. University of Hawaii’s Jeffrey Kuhn, who led the team behind the measurements, told The Guardian that the observations were clues to the Sun’s interior, which moves at different speeds in different areas. An accurate measurement can help us understand how those speeds are distributed.

Source: Guardian

TED: Boaz Almog “levitates” a superconductor

How can a super-thin, three-inch disk levitate something 70,000 times its own weight? In a riveting, futuristic demonstration, Boaz Almog shows how a phenomenon known as quantum locking allows a superconductor disk to float over a magnetic rail — completely frictionlessly and with zero energy loss.


CERN Scientists 99% Sure They've Discovered The God Particle

Scientists at CERN say they’ve found a new particle consistent with the Standard Model Higgs boson with 5-sigma certainty — a false positive probability of about 1 in 9 trillion. Evidence of the particle’s existence in the 126GeV mass range was gleaned from the CMS (video below) and ATLAS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva. CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela explains, “this is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found.”

Before the particle can be determined to be the Standard Model Higgs, scientists will need to find out more about its properties in order to rule out the possibility that it’s something “more exotic.” While the Higgs particle would still leave us well short of a complete picture of the universe (see: gravity), it would fill a major hole in the Standard Model of particle physics by providing strong evidence for what’s called electroweak symmetry — a symmetry between the weak force and the electromagnetic force. In order for the theory to work, force-carrying particles can’t have any mass; a fact that’s always been at odds with experimental results. The Higgs mechanism explains how particles come to acquire mass, and the Higgs Boson’s discovery would confirm that the mechanism is at work.

Despite the massive excitement surrounding the results, the scientists involved are careful to label them preliminary. The data underlying the findings were collected over a period of two years, and the most recent numbers are still being analyzed. “The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage,” said ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, “but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.”

So what does this mean for us? The universe is going to keep on functioning just as it always has, with stars and galaxies growing and dying. The difference is that we have more confidence in how we understand the fabric it’s woven from


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