The periodic table was a lot simpler at the beginning of the universe.
- Michelle Thaller's "absolute favorite fact in the universe" is that we are made of dead stars.
- The Big Bang, when it went off, produced basically three elements: hydrogen, helium, and lithium. Every atom more complex had to be formed inside a star. Over time, stars such as the sun produce things like carbon and oxygen.
- They don't really get much more far off the periodic table than that. If you want to go any farther than the element iron, then you actually need a very violent explosion, a supernova explosion.
We are hurtling through space. But where are we going?
- How fast are you, planet Earth, our solar system, and the galaxy moving right now? There's no one answer to that question because we're going in several directions and multiple speeds all at the same time. How is that possible?
- Within the Milky Way galaxy, our solar system is orbiting around a massive black hole at the center of galaxy at half a million miles an hour. Separately, the Milky Way galaxy is in the Virgo Supercluster, which is falling into the Great Attractor, a huge group of galaxies called the Laniakea Supercluster, at one and a half million miles an hour.
- And all of that is superimposed on top of the natural expansion of the universe, which isn't really a speed, but is happening at 75 kilometers per second per megaparsec.
Black holes may give us a glimpse of the underlying nature of reality.
- Since energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed, some argue that information — arguably a form of energy — cannot be destroyed either. So then, what happens to information when it is absorbed into a black hole? Scientists don't know for certain, but some posit that it may be possible for it to leak away from the black hole over time.
- Black holes may hold information in a two-dimensional manner similar to a hologram, which take on three dimensions when light is shone through them. Some theorize that the underlying nature of reality can be glimpsed through black holes — that all the information about the entire universe is somehow held on a two-dimensional space of something.
- To better understand how black holes work, as well as the elements surrounding them, we may need a level of physics to be developed.
Light exists outside of time.
- The only things that travel at the speed of light are photons.
- Nothing with any mass at all can travel at the speed of light because as it gets closer and closer to the speed of light, its mass increases. And if it were actually traveling at the speed of light, it would have an infinite mass.
- Light does not experience space or time. It's not just a speed going through something. All of the universe shifts around this constant, the speed of light. Time and space itself stop when you go that speed.
NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller will be at Big Think's studio on May 16th to answer YOUR questions! Here's all you need to know to submit your science-related inquiries.
Big Think's amazing audience has responded so well to our videos from NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller that we couldn't wait to bring her back for more!
On the morning of May 16, 2019, she's ready to tackle any questions you're willing to throw at her, such as, "How big is the Universe?" or "Am I really made of stardust?" or, "How long until Elon Musk starts a colony on Mars?"
All you have to do is submit your questions to the form below, and we'll use them for an upcoming Q+A session with Michelle. You know what to do, Big Thinkers!
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