from the world's big
Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
Dr. Michelle Thaller is an astronomer who studies binary stars and the life cycles of stars. She is Assistant Director of Science Communication at NASA. She went to college at Harvard University, completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif. then started working for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) Spitzer Space Telescope. After a hugely successful mission, she moved on to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), in the Washington D.C. area. In her off-hours often puts on about 30lbs of Elizabethan garb and performs intricate Renaissance dances. For more information, visit NASA.
MICHELLE THALLER: Rick, you have noticed one of the most wonderful and consistent patterns in the whole universe. The universe is very good at making spinning discs. Our solar system is a disc, and all the planets go around in basically the same plane, and they all go around in the same direction. Why should that be?
There are discs all over the place. I mean, think about the rings of Saturn. The rings of Saturn are also very, very thin, and they all go around in the same direction. Galaxies, spiral galaxies are one big disc with everything moving around a common center. Discs seem to be something that the universe likes to make. And, in fact, that really is true. And it has to do with a number of things. It has to do with the force of gravity and something called the conservation of angular momentum.
Now, gravity is very good at bringing stuff together and bringing it together so it becomes denser and denser and begins to fall into the center. Our solar system formed out of a giant cloud of dust and gas about 4 and 1/2 billion years ago. It was actually many trillions of miles across at first, but it had to get much smaller in order for the densities to get high enough and the temperatures also to get warm enough inside to give birth to the Sun, actually ignite a star. So you have this collapsing cloud of dust.
OK, well, you can sort of understand that gravity wants to bring all that together, but why does it start to spin up? There's something called the conservation of angular momentum. And that basically says that if anything has any spin at all, even just a little bit of motion, as gravity brings it together and makes it smaller, that spin is accelerated; it's sped up. And probably the example most people know best of all – you can actually feel this if you want to do this – but an ice skater. If you've seen an ice skater do a spin, usually what they do is that they have their arms outstretched, and they're spinning around relatively slowly. And then they bring their arms in, and they spin faster and faster. It's kind of amazing that any person can keep their balance when they do that. That is an application of the conservation of angular momentum. You have an extended body, your arms are out, and you're spinning slowly. In order to conserve the energy in that spin, as that body becomes smaller, the spin goes faster and faster. And so what happens in these clouds is that a cloud usually has just a tiny little bit of a drift velocity. It's going around the galaxy or maybe a nearby star exploded, and it's kind of all moving in one direction. The cloud itself has a little bit of velocity as a cloud, as a whole. Particles inside that cloud could be going any which way.
But as the cloud begins to come together under gravity, any little bit of spin gets accelerated, actually becomes faster. And so as the cloud collapses, any little directional drift becomes a spin, and the cloud itself begins to spin around. OK, so that gets you a spinning cloud. Why does it collapse down into a disc? And this is an interesting bit of physics that has to do with things like collisions. In the case of a very large cloud that's forming a star, it might not even be that things are colliding directly, but gravitationally they're influencing them as you go by. As you go by different parts of mass, they tug on each other with their gravity. So this whole cloud is spinning, and things begin to interact gravitationally. They begin to collide with each other. The particles have motion in every direction. Some are going up, and some are going down. And as they start to hit each other, that's kind of balanced out; that up and down is sort of canceled out, but everything has the same motion as the cloud is spinning. So that's basically the only thing that's left over at the end. Everything gets canceled out as all these things collide and interact, but the spin of the cloud is still there. And so over time, you collapse down into a disc. So the only reason you make discs is because of this law of conservation of angular momentum, and the idea of gravity brings things together. Have those two things working side-by-side, and you get a disc. And that's why our solar system formed that way. The planets then formed out of that spinning disc of gas. So it makes sense that they're all going in the same direction. They all formed out of the gas going around the Sun in that way.
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.