The Geekiest Facts I Know

As a meteorologist and science/tech reporter I often had ‘extra facts’ that wouldn’t fit into my reports. Mostly they were too complex to be included in the time allotted. That’s not a complaint, just an explanation of how things work.

Here on the Internet space is no problem! So, today, two scientific tidbits you might not know about.

200px-Ekman_spirale.svgThe Ekman Spiral:

As you probably realize, ocean currents are mainly caused by the wind. What you might not know is the wind and those currents are not parallel.

Because of friction and the rotation of the Earth, in the Northern Hemisphere currents turn to the right of the wind direction. That’s called the Coriolis effect.

Even beneath the surface Coriolis forces remain in effect. Long story short, each layer of water drags the water beneath it, which turns farther right.

If you go deep enough an easterly wind can produce a westerly current!

Ekman was the single coolest thing I learned in my meteorology studies. Oceanography was my favorite course.

Planck Length:

Is there a limit to how small something can be? Probably not, but some physicists say there is a limit to how small we can measure! It’s called the Planck length.

If you’re counting, a Planck length is 1.61619926 × 10-35 meters or 0.000000000000000000000000000000000016 meters.

The Planck length is not a technological limit (though we currently can’t measure anything small enough to be near the Planck length), but one of physics. The theory says, no matter how much better our instruments get we’ll always hit this measurement wall.

Simply put, the distance between two points separated by the Planck distance will always be too small to measure!

The Planck length is the scale at which classical ideas about gravity and space-time cease to be valid, and quantum effects dominate. This is the ‘quantum of length’, the smallest measurement of length with any meaning. –

There you have it. Two scientific terms to make you as geeky as me. Enjoy.

5 thoughts on “The Geekiest Facts I Know”

  1. Is that kind of like if you are walking towards a wall, and reduce the length of your step by 1/2 with each step taken, you’ll never reach the wall?

  2. I’ve always loved the geeky info you’d include in your weather and gardening reports. This one about Planck length sounds like something from “The Big Bang Theory”!!! 🙂
    So, east coast or west coast, keep them coming!

  3. From an academic perspective, the Coriolis effect is ultimately derived from the Navier-Stokes equations. The direction of forces goes back to the old right hand rule one learn in either Physics or Vector Calculus.

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