Friday, February 12, 2010

Shift, the Red Kind, the Weather Kind

So I woke up early this morning and was watching the Olympic coverage.
It's sort of cloudy here so I'm not sure if a ride is on the planner.
I'm watching Matt Lauer run with the Olympic torch; this year's torch is actually pretty cool looking:

Well like many things that get posted on here, I'm not really sure why, but the word(s) red shift popped into my head.
What the hell is a red shift?
No, it's not a new set of twelve speed STI shifters from SRAM.
In the context that I was thinking about, it refers to a measurement of light from receding galaxies.
See way back in the Dark Ages, when Einstein (it's raining now, just thought I'd let you know) was putting together all his relativity stuff, he made what he called his "greatest blunder:"
He assumed the Universe was static.
Well it seems that there was evidence at the time that stars were moving around out there in space, but the movement detected was deemed insignificant.
Or something like that.
Poor Einstein!
Bet you he wished he had forked over the $39.95 for the broadband so he could get Wikipedia!
Well this stuff also ties into a debate over what the hell the Universe looked like.
See back then, kinda like now, no one had any idea what outer space was all about. Two men, Shapely and Curtis, had a big brouhaha in 1920 over the shape of the Universe. Shapely thought it was small, Curtis imagined it was humongous:

Well, we all know who won that bet.
Anyways, Edwin Hubble was up on Mount Wilson in California looking through his telescope. He and another astronomy geek named Vesto Slipher who worked at Lowell Observatory in Arizona were interested in the red shifts of galaxies and stars(the stars are known as Cepheids, I don't remember why).
Red shift, to put it simply, is an observable shift in the color spectrum of objects moving away from us.
Us on Earth I mean.
So anyway, around 1929 Hubble and a guy named Milton Humason(who started off as a janitor!) put it all together and figured out that holy crap! the Universe is freakin expanding!
Einstein did a major face palm.
Hubble got a constant.
Oh, and he got a telescope:

Well it's not really his telescope.
But it is named after him.
So what has this got to do with the Olympic torch?
I don't really know. I suppose they are related somehow.
In my mind anyways.
Well, guess I'll go and clean my chain in case it stops raining:

There's bound to be a shift in the weather.
The weather here is not static.
Though sometimes I wish it was.


dogimo said...

To me, the mere fact of red shift implies the speed of light can't be constant.

As far as the universe goes, I'll take the best of both worlds: I say the universe is both large and shapley.

limom said...

If the speed of light were not constant, that would surely put physicists in a tizzy!
I mean they would have to go back and recalculate like, everything!
Just think of all that chalk!
Wait, I dont' think the speed of light is theoretical.

limom said...

Actually it seems that the speed of light is not constant after all: