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Astrophysics/Black Hole Experiment


QUESTION: Dr. Nelson,
I have tried now with multiple pumps and various types of tubing; however, the intake tubes will not attract each other no matter how close their mouths are to each other. The pumps I am using now have a maximum flow rate of over 100 gph and still this is not working. Could you possibly suggest another project I could do?

ANSWER: Wow, that doesn't seem possible.  In fact, that result itself might be very interesting science and I'm intrigued.  That's what happens sometimes, anomalous results.  This is now something I'm going to have to build myself.

I read back through the archives to find your original request, which was specific to black holes.  Fascinating subject, difficult to study.  Since you already have pumps and a tank, perhaps you can find some inspiration here before moving on to a different project:!rotating-black-holes/cdqb  
Serious scientists, using draining on the surface to create vortexes, are simulating black holes in analog ways.  Some of the interviews (there's a video they use on that page) are in Italian, but many are in English.  As a variant with the equipment you already have, perhaps you could put two drains next to each other and use the return to keep the rotation going, and look to see if strong surface waves form due to the proximity of the two drains.  The setup wouldn't be as huge or fancy (unnecessarily so, perhaps) as their full-up funded research setup, but their idea of looking on just the surface for a model is a good one.  Strong standing waves forming due to the proximity of close, co-rotating vortexes might indicate that something similar would happen in the case of the accretion disks of two close, co-rotating black holes, and should provide some insight about the qualitative nature of the gravitational waves they would emit.  It's kind of an extension of their project, which looks at amplification of gravitational waves passing through a single black hole.  I just found this now, but it also makes for excellent reference material.

You may also find this interesting:

Follow up with me if you want a project not about black holes, and I'll let you know what my own experiment turns up.

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QUESTION: I wold also be open to a project that doesn't involve black holes as I would like to keep my options open at this point. Please let me know about any oher project ideas as well if you could. I will look into the drain project as well. Thank you for all of your help,

Well, I did think up something a little extreme.  However, it involves strong lasers like this one: and carbon nanoparticles.  The idea would be to use that as proof of principle that a laser in space could, over a reasonable astrophysical distance in our solar system (like 1 AU) could reasonably propel carbon nanoparticles to a significant fraction of the speed of light, to be studied as they passed by the Earth.  But I'm still cooking up ways to actually prove it here, aside from as a theoretical project.

There's also the creation of magnetohydrodynamic waves (Alfven waves) like the ones in the Sun, but that analog usually works best with large amounts of mercury for a conductive fluid.  If you read back through my previous answers a bit, I proposed using copier toner, a vacuum, and a UV light to create an analog to the electrostatically-levitated dust atmosphere of the Moon.  Someone did that one and won their state science fair.

Most projects in astrophysics are like that, theoretical unless you have access to a particle accelerator or some fancy atomic/molecular optics equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Computational projects are cool, though.  They're pretty much the way you do cost-effective projects that are still sufficiently advanced to be impressive for someone at your level.  The sheer cost of real lab equipment kills most of my ideas that you would probably find interesting.

There's also an isotope separation project I've always wanted to see someone try, to see if they could separate water enriched in oxygen-18 by repeatedly supercooling it, casting aside the liquid portion, and concentrating the frozen part.  It's a little water-intensive and time-intensive (a little bit every day), but an interesting kitchen-top nuclear physics project that could result (with enough work) in the creation of oxygen-18 type heavy water.


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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


Fusion, solar flares, cosmic rays, radiation in space, and stellar physics questions. Generally, nuclear-related astrophysics, but I can usually point you in the right direction if it's not nuclear-related or if it's nuclear but not astrophysics.


Just moved from being a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin into government work. Doctoral dissertation was on a reaction in CNO-cycle fusion, worked in gamma-ray astronomy in the space science division of the naval research laboratory in the high-energy space environment branch.

Government work as a physical scientist with a nuclear focus.

Ph.D. in physics, research was on nuclear fusion reactions important in stellar fusion, further work on space telescope technology.

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