Tuesday, March 28, 2023

science discovery poem

Light travels at a finite speed of 280,000 km per second – the speed of light. Because the speed is limited, each photon in each beam of light that reaches the eye or camera sensor leaves its source some time ago. If the object under observation is a few feet away, that time was a tiny fraction of a second ago. If the source is several trillions of kilometers away, the picture that appears is of an object as it was billions of years ago. That is why it is said that telescopes are time machines.

Last week, the world got its first glimpse of images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which was developed over a period of 10 years, launched in December of last year and is currently one million kilometers from the Moon’s orbit. Parked far away. , Telescopes are also differentiated by the wavelength of the photons of ‘light’ (electromagnetic radiation) they are able to detect. The JWST is able to capture visible light and, more critically, improves upon the infrared light capture ability of its older cousin, the Hubble Space Telescope.

Since the beginning of the universe about 13.8 billion years ago, space has been expanding. One effect of this is that the wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum emitted by sources in the early universe are gradually increasing. That light from the earliest objects in the universe is now in the infrared spectrum, the same way that’s used by your TV’s remote control. Because of its wide range in the infrared spectrum, the JWST will be able to capture those early photons, making it a time machine that will allow us to look back as far as just 100–250 million years after the Big Bang.

If you think that this will give us the oldest picture of the universe then you are wrong. This difference goes to the picture of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation released in 2012. This is just 380,000 years after the Big Bang, a time when all the matter in the universe was so densely packed together that stars, planets and galaxies could not form. So far.

The price tag of JWST has been $10 billion over 10 years, split between the project’s principal partner, NASA, and its European and Canadian counterparts, ESA and CSA.

As many economies around the world anticipate entering recession, some across the political spectrum are questioning the prudentness of spending so much money on space exploration. To put it in a local perspective, $10 billion over 10 years is equal (but not equal to) Pakistan’s tea import bill for the same period. The argument for postponing spending on science because there are more urgent needs at home is weak. Such a standard for spending on science and R&D would permanently put all human exploration in the back seat as there will always be competing priorities, and without exploration humans would still be living in caves.

Spending on science is like spending on art. The covid lockdown in 2020 drastically cut down on the choice of activities, which meant that more people were consuming artistic works (film, TV, music, books, sports) and hopefully everyone realized the importance of the artist in society. appreciated. Maybe it’s something that science and art spend in common – you only realize when you don’t have what you need.

I learned about this from the following news coverage since JWST launched late last year. In that period, I am not surprised, the contribution of local news sources to my education has been negligible. Locally, amateur astronomer societies in major cities (Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi) organize meet-and-greets for the public around events on the astronomical calendar. Beyond that, however, in the broader media landscape of radio and television, there are few people for in-depth coverage of such news or science news in general outside of the mandatory 30-second bulletin.

But only the supply side of the information cannot be blamed for this. To take a look at the demand side (media consumer) consider the daily landscape of Pakistani/Urdu social media, which is a barren wasteland almost completely devoid of art, science and exploration – anything that is power politics or religion Not there. Follow Pakistani Twitter for a few months and you could be forgiven for believing that the first thought on waking up and last thought before foreign leaders everywhere is Pakistan, that the world, not the galaxy, revolves around us. Is. Scroll through your newsfeed for six months, a year, even five years, and the only difference between the conversation will be the beloved nicknames by the public and the media for the political and corruption scandals of the day.

If you doubt that we have a heightened sense of self, may I remind you that just a few days back our former prime minister announced that angels will catch voters who did not cast their vote for PTI who was responsible for not supporting him in his grave.

There are many good reasons to fund science and exploration and make it more prominent in everyday life. They include the economic logic of producing unexpected but commercially valuable inventions. Space exploration in particular has the potential to puncture our egos by showing the relative importance of our size (and our problems) relative to the rest of the universe.

As science our illiterate population becomes a target begging to be deceived by any cheater who comes along. In 2012, Aga Waqar earned a spot on his own Wikipedia page as well as his page for “water-powered car”, claiming that he had built a perpetual motion machine whose I wrote about this in an article (‘The Society of Charlton in a Science Illiterate, 2 October 2016, The News on Sunday). Unable to ascertain the impossibility of such a claim, most were prepared to give Aga Waqar’s claims the benefit of the doubt. This was not surprising. What was shocking, however, was that in the days to come he was allowed an audience with the media, along with the country’s leading scientists and engineers, and no one was willing or able to call out the absurdity of his claim. Was (save for one!).

On October 21, 2021, The New Yorker published an article titled ‘NASA’s New Telescope Will Show Us the Infancy of the Universe’. It retells an anecdote from the 1960s by Columbia University astronomer David Helfand when he was a graduate student. A professor asked him how he would justify spending on space exploration before Congress. He called for economic reasoning for his answer, to which his professor replied that it was the wrong answer. He said that the study of the universe is “like an opera, or poetry” because exploration “sets us apart as humans.” And so, while there are many valid reasons to explore the world we live in (economic, the ability not to be taken over by fraudsters), the best one is to satisfy our human curiosity.

The author (he/she) is a professional engineer and holds a PhD in Education.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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