Myths about the universe
The universe is a vast and mysterious place that encompasses everything we have known, observed or with which we may have the possibility of coming into contact in the future. For millennia, the human beings who looked at the sky, our window to the cosmos beyond our world, were amazed and fascinated by the unknown.
Fortunately, and thanks to all the scientific advances made by civilisations around the world over time, we now know-among other things-that the points of light in the sky are stars that are clustered in galaxies and clustered on larger scales, in a universe that began with our Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. However, knowing this does not mean that we know everything about our cosmos. In fact, many people have shared and share some misconceptions, many of them totally false.
It is possible that some of us may have believed these claims at some point in our lives (no one is perfect), but it is time to put an end to these myths, these inaccuracies and mistaken or inaccurate concepts.
And it’s that, even though we may think that in the age of the Internet, the time in history when we can get more information, that we couldn’t even read in several decades, these ideas or myths would have dissolved, The stubborn myths of the past seem to remain patent with new and unusual theories.
Who still thinks that the Great Wall of China is visible from space? (the origin of the myth, its oldest reference, dates back to 1754, but there are still people who believe in this possibility, since it was common to find such statements in textbooks in many schools around the world).
There’s a lot to explore, so we’ll go over some of the most important myths about the universe. Among them, we will talk about whether the Sun is really yellow, whether the Sahara is the largest desert on Earth or whether astrology can really predict your personality or the future (ahem, ahem).
Certainly the evening sun looks yellow, doesn’t it? But the light it emits is technically white. Earth’s atmosphere makes our star look yellow. The gases bend the light in an effect called Rayleigh’s scattering, which is exactly the same phenomenon that makes the sky look blue and sunsets glow in bright oranges, reds and violets. The fact that astronomers classify the Sun as a yellow main sequence G star, or "yellow dwarf", has nothing to do with color.
If you are in total darkness at the coldest point in the known universe, the vacuum of space can drop to -234 ºC. However, near the Earth and thanks to sunlight, temperatures can range from a boiling point of 121 ºC. That’s why astronauts wear reflective white space suits.
Not all deserts are full of sand and have high temperatures. They just need to be dry and inhospitable. As things stand, Antarctica fits these terms, as it receives about 100 mm. -with a water equivalent of just 30 mm- annual rainfall and has few terrestrial animals.
Thus, although it may seem difficult to conceive of Antarctica as the largest desert in the world, compared to the Sahara, which has 9,065,253 km², Antarctica is a much larger desert with 13,829,430 km².
In this sense, film has the "culpa". Despite being fiction, movie scenes/series of spaceships flying through a dense field of falling and crashing rocks... are unrealistic. The asteroid belt is just an incredibly lonely, desolate void.
In fact, if we add up all the asteroids in the belt, they would represent about 4% of the mass of the Earth’s moon. That’s why NASA-and we-get so excited when you get to capture one asteroid colliding with another.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be able to take a look at tomorrow based on something as simple as where the Sun, the planets and the Moon were when you were born? It is what astrology claims to do and what half the world believes-at least in part-(and at the same time it is an incredible business). However, thorough scientific research into astrology has failed, time and again, always. It is impossible to support any prediction of an astrological sign or horoscope. A 1985 study published in the journal Nature was particularly noteworthy. In that experiment, scientists used an unbiased, double-blind protocol and worked with some of the best astrologers in the United States to assess the predictive power of astrological signs. The results? Astrological predictions were no better than chance. So, no, astrology does not predict your future or your personality.
Black holes are contractually forced to appear in all literary and audiovisual eras in the field of science fiction because of their mysterious, powerful and still quite unknown character. From the black hole that destroys the planet Vulcan in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek to Stargate SG-1 and Doctor Who, the black hole is usually portrayed as an inescapable vortex of destruction, that absorbs our universe through a cosmic straw. The reality is that, while black holes are certainly terrifying, they are not as powerful as most people think. We forget that no matter how big they are, they still have mass. This means that no matter how big and strong they may seem, they also have finite strength. In other words, a black hole is like any other object in the universe, as its gravitational pull can only be as powerful as its mass allows. If it is the mass of the sun, its attraction is the same as that of the sun. No more, no less.
We regret it (here again science fiction is largely responsible), but throwing a nuclear weapon at an asteroid would not vaporize the rock. Most asteroids are piles of debris, so a powerful explosion would simply break it down even more. It would be like turning a single bullet into a shotgun blast. It doesn’t seem like such a good idea if we want to save the planet, does it? However, some researchers think that a well-directed and intelligently designed nuclear attack could radiate the surface of an asteroid, vaporize part of the rock and shoot gases that would push an asteroid out of its orbit coincident with the planet.
This approach is true for satellite phones (which the army uses every day), but our smartphones work in a very different way. Mobile phones emit a wireless radio signal and constantly search, ping and relay data to and from ground towers. When we make a call, the nearest tower connects you to another phone through a wide network of tower-to-tower connections and buried wires. At best, a satellite could be involved in a call around the world, but know that 99% of international communications data travels through submarine cables.
We discussed it at the beginning. It’s one of the most widespread myths around the globe. It’s false. Astronauts like Neil Armstrong who after his trip to the Moon claimed he couldn’t distinguish any man-made structures from there or Jeffrey Hoffman have testified. But it didn’t seem to be enough. The myth was widespread. An image from the International Space Station should have cleared up the doubts, as the Great Wall of China is priceless. What is visible from the ISS is the Egyptian pyramids of the Sahara desert.
Jupiter is so big, it doesn’t actually orbit around the Sun. It has a mass that is 318 times that of the Earth, or 2.5 times the mass that all the other planets add up together. Its enormous size causes the center of gravity between the Sun and itself to lie not on the Sun, but beyond the surface of our star (just above the surface of the Sun). This circumstance causes Jupiter not to orb around the Sun (not exactly, as we see), but the Sun and Jupiter both orbit their common center of mass or barycenter, the center of gravity of these bodies. So both the Sun and Jupiter orbit around that point in space.
The forces that affect our universe: gravity, ruled by Einstein’s General Relativity, and the electromagnetic forces, weak and strong, described by the quantum theory of fields, are easy to observe and measure. The underlying theories are separated, with General Relativity describing the relationship between matter and energy with the curvature of space and time, and quantum field theory that describes the interactions between the particles that occur in that space-time. We may be concerned that gravity must be intrinsically a quantum force in nature, and that there must be gravitons measuring that interaction, but the purpose of science is to explain the observations, and General Relativity does it with all of them to the limits of what we are able to observe. Each theory has a limit in its validity range; so general relativity will decompose at some point. Although we hope that someday it will be replaced by a quantum description of gravity, our image of curved space-time affected by matter and energy, where curved space-time determines the paths of objects, is fundamentally valid in the most important sense: it perfectly describes every observation we can conceive.
It’s probably one of the oldest myths. The Earth revolves at approximately a. 1,700 kilometres per hour and orbits around the Sun at a speed of 107.00 kilometews per hour. This inertia slightly flattens the planet’s poles and causes a bulge around the equator. Due to global warming and melting glaciers (and therefore less weight pushing down on the crust), scientists think this bulge is growing, although it should be decreasing as Earth’s rotation decreases by a fraction of a second each year.
Technically the highest mountain in the world is not Mount Everest. Everest is the highest mountain above sea level, but if we talk about the height of a mountain to the summit, then the highest is the island of Hawaii that peaks as Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano. Everest rises 8,848 meters above sea level but as most of the volcano is underwater (in total it would be approximately 10,000 meters) it can be considered the highest mountain in the world.
It is easy to think that the other side of the moon is dark, as we never see it, but it passes through the same lunar phases as the nearest side, the one that is oriented towards the Earth, but the other way around. When there is a new (and very dark) moon on the side closest to the Earth, for example, it means that there is a full moon on the other side. We simply cannot see it from our point of view. So the answer would be that there is a "dark side" to the moon, but it moves. In the formation stage of the Moon there was a difference in temperature between the two faces that remained for quite some time, hence the creation of both sides is so disparate.
When it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, the Earth is no closer to the sun. In fact, it is the opposite: the planet is at its farthest point from the sun during the summer. It’s warmer in the summer because the Earth is tilted. During its orbit, the tilt of our home planet allows the energy of the sun to strike us more directly.
Without obstacles, light can move at 299,792,458 meters per second in the vacuum. But it slows down when traveling through different substances. For example, light moves 25% slower through water and 59% slower through diamond. Particles such as electrons, neutrons, or neutrinos can surpass photons of light in such materials, although they have to purge energy as radiation when they do.
So yes, we can break the light barrier, but not the way we see it in the movies. In fact, there are several ways to travel faster than light. For example, the Big Bang itself expanded much faster than the speed of light. Quantum entanglement also moves faster than light. If I have two electrons close together, they can vibrate in unison, according to quantum theory. If I then separate them, an invisible umbilical cord emerges that connects the two electrons, even though they may be separated by many light-years. If I shake an electron, the other electron "detects" this vibration instantly, faster than the speed of light. Einstein thought that this, therefore, refuted quantum theory, because 'nothing can go faster than light'. This is because the information that breaks the light barrier is random and therefore useless.
Despite today’s terraplanists, our learned ancestors in the High Middle Ages, for example, thought the Earth was round, not flat. Where does the incredible myth that the Earth is flat come from? This myth gained strength in the 1800s, just as the idea of evolution was growing and religious and scientific interests clashed. The idea spread during the first half of the 20th century and the fact that even with endless scientific evidence there are people defending this tremendous stolid, serves to show how civilisation has been and is so guilty of abusing its intellectual authority and taking advantage of laziness and ignorance of others. With simple arguments based on common sense we can dismantle any terraplane theories.
Thunder and lightning are two distinct manifestations but associated with the same meteorological phenomenon: storms. The ray is just a stream of electrons, the electric discharge that occurs in a short period of time. Thunder, on the other hand, is the noise formed by the rapid expansion and contraction of the nearby air, creating an unmistakable crack and crash.
Solid, liquid and gaseous? We cannot forget the plasma. It is easy to assume that solids are the most abundant form of matter in the cosmos, as we all live in a giant rock. But the plasma is much more abundant: stars, including our Sun, are giant spheres of bright plasma. There are also many more phases of matter, such as supercritical fluids, that occur on the surface of Venus. In summary, solid (fixed matter), liquid (fluids), gaseous (gases), plasma (hot and ionized gases) and Bose-Einstein condensate (superfluous gases cooled at temperatures close to absolute zero) would be the main ones.
We’ll all remember the scene from the sci-fi film Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eyes pop out of his sockets because he’s in space without a suit. Well, that has nothing to do with what would actually happen to our body in space. Most assume that if the pressure outside an object is greater than the pressure inside, the object will explode like a balloon in the upper atmosphere. So, if you take a human out of the pressure of our atmosphere, after a few seconds, it will explode. Well, no. Reality was best drawn by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: Odyssey in Space when astronaut Bowman survives a complete spacewalk without a helmet. He couldn’t breathe, of course, but his head wasn’t going to explode like a balloon. Fortunately, our skin and circulatory system does an incredible job protecting our body from the effects of explosive decompression.
So the main dangers of not having the right space suit-excluding temperatures-are fundamentally related to oxygen: breathing, naturally, and also containing air from the lungs. We wouldn’t last long looking at the show either, since a person/astronaut would be unconscious in 15 seconds.