Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why does so much time pass in Interstellar?

While on a quest to save the human race, astronauts in the film Interstellar travel to a foreign planet orbiting closely around a supermassive black hole.  Due to the strong gravity, time on the planet is distorted, being artificially compressed.  Seven entire years here on Earth are squeezed down to just one hour of time on the planet.

This is one of the many bizarre effects of Einstein's general theory of relativity, referred to as gravitational time dilation.  I had some students from my physics class recently ask me to explain this phenomenon.  So I prepared what I think is a fairly straightforward explanation of the phenomenon, assuming only a knowledge of 1st semester physics and some simple calculus.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Past Two Years of My Life

I was looking just now, and realized it's been two years since my last update.

This blog is kind of a weird thing. It started as a way for me to vent my thoughts on fantasy and science fiction books, then got kind of science-y. At one point I had a spike on my post about the vampire movie Let Me In.  Then I had that viral Berenst#in Bears post that got passed around the web a lot, inspiring lots of kookiness. I was getting lots of traffic for a while -- until Vice basically rewrote my same idea but on their own website with their names attached.

Since then my traffic has slowly dwindled down to numbers that actually make sense for what my blog is.

Really, what gets me isn't that another site gets my traffic, but that in all the traffic that I got, almost none of them read what I think are some of my coolest posts -- the stuff about using Gauss' Law to calculate the width of Narnia, or using volume contracting spacetimes to travel to other dimensions, or why everything cool in physics is impossible, or how time travel is understood to work within physics.

I haven't posted much (anything) since things sort of died down. I still check in frequently, but never find the impetus to start to writing. Maybe it's the weight of former glory intimidating me.