15 Of The Most Amazing Science Facts That Can Easily Be Mistaken For Science Fiction
Science is a beautiful thing, over the past five hundred years the age of reason has presented us with the tools to explain our physical world and use science to create some amazing inventions and theories. We all use the fruits of these discoveries in our everyday lives from talking on the telephone, going to work in our cars, watching the football on TV and even reading the news on the internet, but not all of us realize just how thin the line is between science fact that helped pave the way for those inventions and science fiction.
Some of these inventions and theories are so incredible that you could be forgiven to think that you have seen them on an episode of Star Trek or read them in an Isaac Asimov novel. The following is a short list of some of the most amazing and true scientific facts that anyone can easily mistake for being science fiction.
1) You Can Fly on Titan With a Set of Wings Attached to Your Arms
Titan is a moon orbiting our ringed neighbor planet Saturn, in fact it’s Saturn’s largest moon and scientists have paid close attention to it since it’s the only other body known to us to contain a dense atmosphere and stable bodies of liquid on its surface. The gravity on Titan is also weaker than here on Earth, much so that along with its dense atmosphere if you were to attach a set of wings to your arms and flap them like a bird, you would actually be able to fly around.
Of course you wouldn’t want to stay too long as the long term negative health side effects from exposure of low gravity including loss of bone density, loss of muscle density and weakened immune system. Titan is one of the few planets that is up for serious consideration for Human colonization when we finally start to colonize other planets in the future.
2) It is Entirely Possible For The Woman or Man of Your Dreams to Just Pop Into Existence Out of Thin Air
Quantum mechanics is an incredibly complicated field of physics, it deals with the fundamental laws that govern our universe and the ramifications of this field of study are mind boggling. Where we have general relativity to deal with the very large (gravity and space-time) Quantum mechanics deals with the very small such as interactions between fundamental particles.
One such ramification is that empty space is not empty at all, it’s actually filled with huge amounts of energy and particles popping in and out of existence from seemingly nothing. That’s where we can theorize that anything can randomly come together to create something and yes it could well be the partner of your dreams, the only thing is that it may take a while. The amount of particles that would need to come together in the exact place at the exact time would be numbered in the trillions and for that to happen you’ll need to wait for longer the universe has existed, which is 13.7 billion years.
3) Warp Drive Has Already Been Discovered….Sort Of
Most of us have watched Star Trek and in every episode we see Captain Kirk ordering his helmsman Sulu to go to warp speed, the way the Enterprise breaks the light speed barrier and achieves interstellar travel. Thanks to Einstein we know that nothing with any mass can break the light speed barrier but we can use a loophole in his equations to do so. His equations state that space itself can travel at whatever speed it likes and that’s what warp drive does, it warps space then pushes it to superluminal speeds.
The warp drive was just the fictional faster than light engine in Star Trek up until 1994 when a Mexican physicist, Miguel Alcubierre, wrote a paper to mathematically warp space-time and prove the underlying concept. All we are waiting for today is a brilliant engineer to design an engine capable of Alcubierre’s equations and an incredible energy source to power our star ship.
4) We Have Built Intelligent Robotic Animals
Robots are nothing new, a lot of people even have toy robots in their home and we see many on the television everyday, whether it be in a documentary or on the news. Many of these robots such as military drones, movie props and bomb disposal robots are controlled by humans through remotes like gamepads and laptops. There are a few robots being designed that can think for themselves and are being given characteristics of animals to help their purpose.
The US military has designed a four legged robot with the characteristics of a cheetah to carry equipment behind enemy lines and even run at high speed. This robot can also keep itself from falling over as well, with no Human intervention, making it useful for rugged terrains. The “Cheetah” robot can run up to 28 miles per hour.
5) Exoskeletons Have Already Been Invented
Exoskeletons are quite popular today in sci fi, having made huge impacts in films like Elysium and Edge of Tomorrow and being a major part of the gameplay tagline “Power changes everything” in the blockbuster video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Exoskeletons however are not that far off from what we can see in those examples, the military has been working on platforms that can help soldiers lift more and carry more on the battlefield.
The defense giant Raytheon has prototyped the XOS-2 recently, allowing soldiers to carry a weight ratio of 17:1 and is being considered for the TALOS (Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) program; which is the military’s aim to build a lightweight high mobility armor suit for its soldiers for use in the field. There are also multiple civilian exoskeletons that help people with movement problems by assisting them with weight and mobility whilst remaining under the wearers own control.
6) We Have Made Artificial Meat
You read it right we have made completely lab grown meat using stem cells from a cow and cooked the world’s first 100% artificial burger without having to slaughter a cow for the meat. This incredible feat was made by scientists in the Netherlands where using stems cells from a Cow, stripping them to make a patty.
The burger was eaten in London in 2013. One food expert said it was ” close to meat, but not that juicy” and another said it tasted like a real burger. Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat. The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown, from Cornwall, and tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald. Food writer Mr Schonwald said: “The mouth feel is like meat. I miss the fat, there’s a leanness to it, but the general bite feels like a hamburger“.
Quotes attributed to BBC news
7) The Gold in Your Ring Could Only Have Came From The Heart of a Dying Star
While saying gold comes from gold mines wouldn’t be a incorrect answer, I’m talking about the larger picture and where gold is made. Gold is one of the most valuable metals on Earth and is used for jewelry, statues, coins and has industrial uses. It’s soft, ductile and doesn’t tarnish. Its atomic number is 79 making it one of the heavier elements that can only have been produced in the extreme conditions of a super nova.
Like all elements, gold is made from nuclear fusion, the process is where elements are fused together to make heavier elements which happens inside a star until it starts making iron. At that point the star begins to die, since burning iron doesn’t give off any energy, so all the heavier elements are only made when the star dies in a super nova, creating gold, uranium, silver and many more. They can also be made in the much rarer case of collisions between ultra dense neutron stars.
8) Every Time You Look Up Into The Night Sky You’re Looking Back in Time
Look at the Sun (don’t look directly at the Sun) and you’ll be looking 8 minutes into the past, look at the moon and your looking about seven seconds into the past and look up to Proxima Centari, one of the closest stars to ours, and you’ll be looking at just over four years into the past. Light doesn’t travel at an instantaneous speed even though it seems like it, it actually travels at around 300,000 km per second which is an incredible speed, according to Einstein it’s actually the universe’s maximum speed limit.
Similarly, even the light you see from nearby objects is slightly delayed, but since the speed of light is about a foot per nanosecond (billionth of a second), the finite speed of light doesn’t matter much in everyday life. However, you may notice it on TV broadcasts involving communication between people who are on opposite sides of the Earth. It takes time for the signal from one person to reach the other, so you may observe a slight delay between one person’s question and the other’s response
9) There is a Planet 40 Light Years Away That is Mostly Made Up of Diamonds
The planet 55 Cancri e is what is known as a super Earth, meaning it has a rocky surface and orbits a star much like our own, and a few years ago scientists reported that the planet seemed to contain a much greater ratio of Carbon to Oxygen than one. That means that the planet could be littered with diamonds since carbon what diamonds are made from.
55 Cancri e is twice as large as our own planet with a mass eight times greater and orbits its parent star so close and so fast that a year lasts just 18 hours. The finance boffins at Forbes magazine even valued this planet at over 26 nonillion (that’s 26 followed by 30 zeros). Sure, this is the first time in your life that you have ever thought of a nonillion. But you’ve surely thought of trillions before — and that’s a one followed by 12 zeros. To get to a quadrillion you just at three more zeros and if you go up three each time, it only takes five more increments of three zeros to get you to a nonillion.
10) If You Could Extract All The Empty Space in Atoms Then The Entire Human Race Could Fit Inside The Space of a Sugar Cube
Atoms are mostly empty space, in fact 99.9999% of an atom is actually empty with an example being that if somehow we were able to squeeze out all of the empty space and leave just the protons, electrons and neutrons the whole of our race could fit into the size of a sugar cube. The playwright Tom Stoppard had the best image saying that if the nucleus was a cathedral then the electron was a moth flying around inside it.
The wonderful world of physics can also help us estimate the weight of that sugar cube, in general terms anyway. Since most of an atoms mass is contained in its nucleus, and all we need to do is remove the empty space; we have not actually removed any weight so it would be one very dense sugar cube indeed, estimated at about 316 million tons according to an article in the Huffington post.
11) This is Just One Version of me Writing This and Just One Version of You Reading This
From Fringe to Star trek parallel universes have been a sci fi cliche for decades now, but many physicists now believe that our universe is not the only one; with few even thinking that the big bang was just the death of one universe giving birth to another. It’s all very theoretical with many scientists saying yes its possible and many other saying no its absurd.
According to the theory there is an infinite number of universes and each one could have vastly different out comes to everyday decisions. For example, Napoleon Bonaparte could have not been defeated at the battle of Waterloo in which case the world could look very different or imagine if Al Gore was president. What if the dark ages never happened, we could be a galactic civilization by now in another universe. What we know about physics today seems to suggest that the multiverse theory may be true and the science being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider when its turned back on later this year may help prove or disprove the theory once and for all.
12) A Particle Here Can Have an Effect on Another on The Other Side of The Universe Instantaneously
Quantum entanglement is one of the fundamental principles of quantum physics as we understand them today and is also one of the most misunderstood things in all of science today. Basically the principle states that multiple particles are linked together in such a way that the measurement of one particle directly effects the possible quantum states of the other particles.
A common example of this is known as the EPR paradox. In a simple version of the experiment consider a particle with a quantum spin of 0 that then decays into two new particles, particle A and B. Each particle then head off in two directions and since they come from a particle with a spin of 0 they need to have a spin that adds up to that so one has a spin of 1/2 and the other has a spin of -1/2. This means they are entangled and if something were to happen to particle A then it will have an effect on particle B no matter the amount of distance that is put between the two. This has been proved using Bell’s Theorem.
13) The Faster You Travel The Heavier You’ll Get
We owe a lot to the genius that is Albert Einstein. As we touched upon before saying that light is the ultimate speed limit in the universe it also can cause some pretty weird phenomena when objects begin to approach the ultimate galactic speed limit, one of them being the faster you travel the heavier you’ll get. This is one of the most interesting things about special relativity that if an object approaches light speed (around 300,000km per second) it acts as though it has more mass even to the point that at 99.999999*% the speed of light it acts as though it has infinite mass; thus cannot be pushed any faster.
This is not the only thing that happens when you come close to the speed of light, most people have at least heard of the time dilation effect of near luminal travel and the twin paradox experiment that states one identical twin is sent off in a space ship near the speed of light for four years but when he returns to Earth over 200 years have passed. This is one of the main proofs we have that space and time are linked.
14) Humans Can Survive Unprotected in Space For Two Minutes
Most of us have seen some sort of explosive decompression scene in a bad sci fi movie, mine was in the original Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the surface of Mars and his eyes begin to pop out of his skull and his skin begins to bubble, thankfully this is not true. Though most of us will never ever have to deal with a zero atmosphere environment, it is thought that Humans could survive in one for up to two minutes as long as you don’t hold your breath as your lungs will rupture and will result in death.
Experiments conducted on dogs during the space race in the 1960’s shows that we could survive for up to 180 seconds as long as we were back in a pressurized environment after that. During the experiments, the dogs became unconscious after 10-20 seconds. They also experienced simultaneous urination, projectile vomiting, and defecation, the latter two caused by gas from their digestive tract being rapidly expelled. Many of the dogs also experienced dramatic seizures. Some of the dogs ended up with a thin layer of ice on their tongues as the moisture in their mouths evaporated, cooling the tongue rapidly. Finally, the dogs’ bodies themselves swelled to nearly twice their normal size, with researchers noting that they looked like “an inflated goatskin bag”.
15) A Real Death Star is Pointing Straight at Earth
” That’s no moon, it’s a Death Star” – one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies yet the fact there is a real Death Star pointing its gun at us is terrifying. Its name is WR 104 and is roughly 8000 light years away in the Sagittarius constellation, it’s been given the nick name pinwheel but one star there is highly unstable and when it rotates and clashes with another star every 8 months it emits a small Gamma ray burst.
Gamma rays are incredibly harmful and the small bursts it gives off at the moment are no worries to us, but when the star goes super nova there is a chance the resulting Gamma ray burst could reach us and cause significant damage to our planet. If this were to happen the gamma rays would not penetrate out atmosphere but could cause enough damage to our stratosphere to drastically change our environment perhaps even causing an extinction level event.