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.

The Good Ones Never Come Easy

Never heard of the Planck Length? Neither had I. It holds an interesting place in our scientific conversation. A Planck Length is 1.616199(97)×10−35 meters.

Four days a week I produce a tech/science feature on FoxCT where I work. They’re fun to do, but it’s a bottomless pit! I need something new and interesting every day.

Usually the topics come while reading. Something I see will be the seed. I do a little research, look for supporting video and it’s off to the races.

Most of the time the process take a few days. Seldom do I ponder a story more than a week. That’s not how it’s working out with the Planck Length.

Never heard of the Planck Length? Neither had I. It holds an interesting place in our scientific conversation. A Planck Length is 1.616199(97)×10−35 meters.

In some forms of quantum gravity, the Planck length is the length scale at which the structure of spacetime becomes dominated by quantum effects, and it would become impossible to determine the difference between two locations less than one Planck length apart.

Let me de-buzz that for you. In theory even if something was smaller than a Planck Length there is no way to measure it. Quantum physics (a subject I know nearly zero about) gets in the way!

I will continue to ponder. Maybe it will be a story about small things in general. There’s cool video floating around with Admiral Grace Hopper demonstrating the distance light travels in a millionth of a second!

The good ones never come easy