Archive for June, 2010

History Explained

I recently found an interesting site called History Explained. It essentially distills the entire sweep of world history into a single coherent theory. Basically, the world is currently undergoing a massive revolution from an oligarchic society (where power is concentrated in the hands of a relative few people) to a true democratic market system, where freedom and economic opportunity will be available to everyone.

I think I mostly agree with the conclusions and reasoning presented there. A large section of site is dedicated to current problems, in particular the Middle East. The main problem, the site states, is mostly the transition from oligarchic to democratic society, but is compounded by American interference. Americans only want to help the people there, but this transition can only be done on its own, and the transition is necessarily often a violent one (the American Revolution was another such example). By getting ourselves involved, America only makes itself a target of violence and hate.

What I’m curious about is how to fit my own concept of future history into this explanation. I suppose I don’t dwell too much on future historical trends, and the future robotic and virtual revolutions will just be expressions of a greater free society. After all, how much more free can you be when you–and everyone else–essentially has the powers of a god?

Anyway, I recommend the site, it’s very well worth a read.

The Electric Force

I love physics. Which is good because I’m majoring in physics. One of the many strange things in this universe is the fact that gravity is such an astonishingly weak force. It may seem counterintuitive since our world completely defined by gravity. We need giant rockets just to crawl into the nearest fringes of space. But compared to the other three fundamental forces of nature, gravity may as well not even exist.

To illustrate this point, imagine that you are a fairly tall (2 meters, about 6’6”) and muscular bodybuilder, capable of lifting 100 kg (about 220 lbs.) over your head. It’s a pretty impressive feat; most people would struggle to lift half that. But let’s imagine you were to replace the large weight with some hydrogen that’s been split into protons and electrons by some machine (hydrogen is the simplest element, consisting of a single proton surrounded by a single electron). The positive protons and negative electrons attract each other just like the Earth and the 100 kg weight. The question is: how much hydrogen do you need to replicate the same feat.

The answer is really really surprising: only 10 nanograms. Yes, that’s only 0.00000001 grams (or 0.00000000002 lbs.) of hydrogen, split into protons and electrons, that will create the same force (if separated at 2 meters. Any closer and the force becomes stronger). In fact just separating that amount of electrons from protons would take as much energy as the entire human race uses in over 5 years. The electric force is that powerful, and it’s not even the strongest force in the universe. We’re lucky that nearly every positive charge in the universe is balanced by some negative charge, otherwise everything would be either crushed or repelled to infinity instantly.