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Guest: Dr. Matt Caplan; Topics: Dr. Caplan's work on Cooling White Dwarf Stars, general physics, astrophysics & astronomy discussions, supernovas, U235 and supernova explosion, dark matter, Tic Tac, they why behind what happens in the solar system plus lots more.
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We welcomed back Dr. Matt Caplan to discuss his theory for cooling white dwarf stars. Please see the paper and news article about his work which I have posted on the blog for this show. Note that before we started talking with Dr. Caplan about his work, I took the liberty to ask him some general computing questions regarding the type of computers he uses in his research plus later I asked him if the supercomputer was energy efficient when compared to Bitcoin mining. Don't miss what he said in response to this line of questioning.
After talking about supercomputers in his research, we zeroed in on his research which essentially covers fission with uranium triggering a supernova in white dwarf stars. Matt then proceeded to do an excellent job of explaining his research and telling us why it was unique, not conventional, and as some might say, a bit "out there." He talked about Type 1A supernova, iron an nickel, igniting material and the U235 with a half lie of about 700 million years. Please note that while our guest did explain Type1a supernovae and standard candles, I'm indicating they were part of our discussion but am bypassing any in-depth discussion of them in this summary.
Additional topics included listener Todd asking for the basic difference in a white dwarf star and a red dwarf start. Matt said it was the type of light, then went into detail on the differences. Don't skip this part of our discussion. After the discussion around Todd's question, I asked Matt if there was a purpose behind why things happen in space like they do. Otherwise, was there a purpose behind why the laws of physics behave as they do to produce specific events and consequences. This opened up an informative and entertaining discussion on the subject with our guest. At one point, Matt brought up the famous Nobel Prize winner in physics, Dr. Richard Feynman. Our guest pointed out the famous Feynman chess example regarding the rules of the universe or "how the scientific process is analogous to discovering chess." If you are not familiar with this Feynman example or if you have forgotten it, check it out here: https://en.chessbase.com/post/feynman-using-chess-to-explain-science. As always, your commentary would be appreciated so please post it on our blog for this program.
After the Feynman discussion, I read an email from Jerry in Denver inquiring where uranium in space comes from because it is mined here on Earth. Matt reminded us that everything comes from the stars and gets distributed by supernovae. Listen to his explanation of the process. Sharon from Salt Lake City followed up with a note asking why the Moon, Mars and others place have different makeup from Earth if everything known comes from the stars as our guest explained. Once again you will want to hear how Matt answered Sharon's question.
I took the liberty of asking Matt if those studying physics and astrophysics around the world learned the same things, have comparable text books and if not, how do they differ. As you will hear, there actually are differences based on technology and tools for teaching. Listen to his example of the US with ample computer power and simulation and the Cold War Soviet Union, being short on those tools, stressed hand calculations and math. Matt reflected on how those different approaches shape the future scientists, especially in the use of Math.
Tony from Pasadena asking why supernovae were rare. Here is his question in full: "If a white dwarf can produce a supernova, why are supernovae still relatively rare since white dwarfs are common? The last observed supernova in the Milky Way was in 1607; the 1987 supernova was in the Large Magellanic Cloud." Matt provided a detailed response for Tony which I am sure you will appreciate.
Another listener with the name John wanted to know if the explosions our guest had been talking about which take place in space had a sound to them as explosions do on Earth. He did not understand how this could be since space was a vacuum. Matt explained this and said that while there was sound, it was more like pressure waves, not sound like you hear with our ears. Listener Jack wanted to know if humans had the power to adversely impact Earth given how much energy our guest was saying was needed for different events to happen with specific consequences. Listen to how Matt responded to this question. You might hear something you did not expect to hear.
I asked Matt that if he wrote a book 150 years in the future, how would he characterize the science advances existing 150 years from now. Matt thought about this and provided us with a most interesting answer. He also said much of it would be speculation but he could draw out certain outcomes from things we know today like with anti-matter as an example. I then asked if such a book would be listed as a science fiction book. What do you think his answer was to that questions? Listen to find out.
We next heard from Fremont John wanting to ask specific questions about the Type 1a supernova and standard candles. Judy then sent in a note about how far one would have go in the study of basic physics to have a good understanding of topics discussed today plus the many related topics we won't have time to address. Matt talked about astronomy and physics classes plus learning the language of math. Make sure you hear what he had to say in response to Judy.
Listener Randy wanted to know if it might be possible in the future that science could prolong the life of our sun. Matt said no, that it was a mathematical calculation but listen to his comments. Having had time before the show started to ask Matt for his opinion on Tic Tac, I now asked him the same but on air. Matt has followed the Tic Tac and Navy story and thinks it may involve camera distortion. We spent several minutes on Tic Tac so do listen to What Matt had to say. I did ask him if he thought we were alone in the universe. He said "not likely." That said, he went back to the age old challenge, how do they get here given the challenges and time involved in interstellar flight.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Caplan on our blog. You can email our guest through me or his faculty website page from his bio.