I’m fascinated by the ideas of Dark Matter and Dark Energy – the thought that about 95% of the universe consists of things that we are completely unable to detect. Dark matter/energy is believed to be all around us, yet we can only surmise its existence based on the effects that it has on things we can see. This is science at its best: using clues about the 5% of things we know to extrapolate answers to the rest. And if we discover the nature of dark energy/matter, what else will we find that we don’t know?
My favorite natural phenomenon is the refraction (bending) of light through the atmosphere. This is most noticeable at sunrise and sunset when the refraction causes other colors to scatter, and we are left with the brilliant reds and yellows and oranges that we see. I always loved getting up on the deck of my ship at sunset when I was in the Navy, because in very rare circumstances, you can see something called the Green Flash - a short lived bright flash of green at the top of the sun just before it sets completely. I only ever saw it twice in 6 years at sea, but it was awesome.
A scientific law that changed the way I viewed the world is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system increases over time. In other words, the disorder of the universe is always increasing. It implies to me that nature has a preferred direction that it is always moving towards as if the universe is driven by an outside force. Examples of this include; that heat will never flow from a cold object to a hot object, the addition of impurity will result in that impurity eventually spread out throughout the whole system, or simply, that you cannot unbreak an egg. After learning this law, I found myself looking at the fleeting nature of objects and their relative importance to the whole.
My favorite natural phenomenon is the wind. I love thinking about its wavelength nature, how the direction and speed indicate pressure differences in the atmosphere, and how you can look at reflection and diffraction patterns after an encounter with a foreign object. Additionally, I love the sound effects you get when the wind causes different shaped pockets of "empty" space to vibrate at different speeds. This can create sounds that vary from relaxing white noise, to music, to a spine cringing howling and moaning.
I think that string theory if proven, would change how everyone views the world. Not only would it involve unknown forces, but it would mean that there are more dimensions in the universe than what we know and comprehend. To put it simply, if string theory is proven, you won't be able to conceptualize it.
Earth-Shattering Theory: It’s immoral for citizens of industrialized/developed nations to have children during the Anthropocene. Check out Travis Rieder at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Bioethics of more!
My favorite natural phenomenon is the creation of fossil fuels. About 300 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period, the atmosphere was full of carbon and the land was dominated by huge trees, reptiles, and swamps. The carbon-rich trees (and reptiles for that matter) fell in the swamps where they were buried, compacted, and heated thus forming coal. In the oceans of the Carboniferous period, a similar process was happening with sea creature bones and plankton; this resulted in oil and natural gas deposits. In both instances, the carbon was not broken down because of the oxygen-free environment surrounding the organic material. I like this process because it puts atmospheric carbon dioxide into a geological perspective. That is, it takes millions of years to create fossil fuels, but only about two-hundred years to extract and combust them! As a result, the global carbon equilibrium is becoming redistributed (with a severe imbalance in the atmosphere) and that spells trouble for the ecosystem services and systems we depend on for resources and waste assimilation!