There are quite a few things in scientific studies that really made me go "wow!", and completely transformed the way I saw my surroundings, and I thought that a discussion where everyone could mention what made them go "wow!" would be a nice way of discovering new and fascinating scientific tidbits.
I'm in biology, and I think the biggest amazement I've had was when I discovered the existence of ATP Synthase.
So I was looking for a small movie for ATP Synthase on youTube. I found one that was pretty well done... then I saw the ending and.. well I basically blurted out the soda I was drinking... luckily not through the nose.
So this is basically a 2 in 1 discussion (not a good idea I know), but I can't just ignore this particular youTube movie...
I've never had such a steep rollercoaster ride on a short vidéo.... I was at the height of going "wow!" before falling into an abyssal "UGH!".
I actually have nausea now, I hate seeing such fascinating science be used to propagate ignorance.
For me it is Virtual Particles. We all know about conservation of mass, and conservation of energy. Well, it turns out that these are not absolute principles but are true on average, at least on the quantum level. Matter and Antimatter particles are created from nothing all the time, but they annihilate and bring the equation back to zero. So they are sort of like the universe keeping a double set of books. The idea that the Laws of Physics sometimes cheat really tickles my fancy...
But it gets better. When these virtual particles pop into existence right at the Event Horizon of a Black Hole, a certain percentage of the time the particle makes Escape Velocity as the antiparticle gets captured, and you wind up with radiation being emitted by the Black Hole, while the BlackHole loses an equal amount of mass to annihilation. The sums at the end of the equation all zero out again, but a small amount of mass has been transferred from the Black Hole into the universe at large, indirectly. And when Stephen Hawking did the math, the percentage of particles created in this manner exactly equals the expected blackbody cooling that you would expect from a Black Hole if it was not a Black Hole but a regular object.
While I've heard about matter and anti-matter being created from nothing all the time, and it seems to be a pretty fascinating and mysterious zone... I've got to admit my imagination (and probably intellect) hit a brick wall there.
I just have so much trouble grasping the idea.
In my head, nothing.. is nothing. If something can come out of it.. then it would mean it isn't nothing, even if it appears to be nothing.
What bothers me as well (though this is probably just some misunderstanding on my part), is that this seems to imply that event horizons are required to bring matter into "permanent" existence.
Which begs the question, how did black holes come about in the first place? (but that's a whole other discussion ;) ).
I like Astronomy best, but what really "wow"ed me was Craig Ventor's team creating synthetic life:
It is a first step, but think of what it could mean... Designed bacteria...Designed food...Designed medicine
Think of a biological problem and design a solution for it. No more waiting on evolution to solve particular problems.
Then there is the use of biology for engineering buildings and other structures. There is so much this will affect, it will be a cultural revolution.
Yeah that was pretty amazing! I liked the little additional touch of adding in the artifical DNA sequence some coded quotes, using the ATCG alphabet. If that little creature knew it was carrying poetry in it's DNA.....
What was most amazing though, was how the injected DNA just ejected the old stuff, and took over... very efficient and independent. You don't want to be on DNA's bad side...
The anomalous reaction of water and rubber. They both behave contrary to the laws of physical science and expand when cooled. Does anyone know why? Is it something about the nature of crystals? Then why rubber? BTW. This exception is one reason why I became "hooked" on science at a young age...that and Euler's Constant for the sq root of negative numbers. I love counterintuitive stuff...like the speed of light.
Research on Absolute Zero. The idea that absolute nothingness is probably not even possible is fascinating to me. The fact that we have not been able to produce the lowest possible temperature, on at which even sub-atomic particles cease motion is mind-boggling to me.
An interesting corollary to this idea is that conductors, when chilled to absolute zero (or as close as possible) will conduct electricity without resistance or loss of power over unlimited distances (which inside circuits, amounts to a considerable barrier to voltage preservation). It opens up incredible new possibilities for circuits.