week 4 - plasma, magnetism & space

We learned in depth about plasma and magnetism on Monday with Dr. Walter Gekelman. Previously having toured the plasma lab he had generously allowed us to tour. We learned about the basics of laws like Maxwell's Equations that each had to do with different gravitational pulls.


In class visual presentation of a magnet below and lead dust being attracted to the surface reveals the gravitational current.

In further investigation, I found that Maxwell's equation is based on the Gauss law of electrostatic, where it states "a closed surface integral of electric flux density is always equal to charge enclose over that surface". Therefore, the equation proves how electric charges and currents produce magnetic and electric fields. Maxwell's equations model how electromagnetic waves work- such as light. While he did not invent these four equations, he combined the four discovered by Gauss, Faraday, and Ampere. In addition, the second equation deals with magneto statics, where "closed surface integral of magnetic flux density is always equal to total scalar magnetic flux enclosed within that surface of any shape or size lying in any medium". His third equation proves that time-varying magnetic fields will always produce an electric field derived from Faraday's laws of Electromagnetic Induction. Finally, his last law proves that since there is an electric field, there must be a magnetic field vector around it. Where "[t]he closed line integral of magnetic field vector is always equal to the total amount of scalar electric field enclosed within the path of any shape". Thinking further about these equations, Dr. Walter Gekelman explained that in the third equation, life would simply not exist without the negative sign. To me this mathematical equation, that had little or close to no meaning but somehow a negative sign in an equation could change life itself. In the lecture we also learned about vector fields, where a vector has magnitude and direction like wind, force, electric current, and magnetic fields. In the picture below, shows the magnetic field of the earth and how electrons can be pulled into this field and travel around the earth in various numbers of paths.

While we did get a bit lost in the lecture, I still find it fascinating how one can make art with magnets. With further investigation on YouTube I discovered artist Eric Mesple, that has been experimenting with magnetic liquid for the past dozens of years. Residing in Los Angeles, he approaches art conventionally and uses science to further explore a vast range of materials. His degree is in computer science and he uses ferrofluid, which is a liquid with nano-size iron particles that was developed by NASA in the 1960s. Similarly, in class we were able to also play around with something that involved the same kind of materials in a glass container with a magnet.

Magnets shown above being pulled pulled apart and then connected back together.

On Thursday, we discussed how each different topic we learned during the weeks related to one another. Together as a class we made relationships of the numerous topics we learned. For example we started off with the hexagon (the beginning of the class) and how pencils were made to SCOBY (a yeast starter), and eventually expanded to all the other topics. What caught my attention was that every single word listed fell under the category of life and made me think of what we had learned in class. Like in the chart I made, I decided to include the word symbiosis - the interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. I realized that we in fact had a symbiotic relationship with one another and surrounding living organisms like trees. While symbiosis is a way in which organisms live together mutually, in the article by sciencedirect states that we have a symbiotic relationship with the micro biome and play many roles in the structural integrity of the organism to prevent the entry of noncommensal organisms. 

In addition, corals are the product of a symbiosis between cnidarians and green algae (talked about in the lecture), which allows the building of reefs. These leguminous plants for something called rhizobium bacteria and fix the large amounts of nitrogen in the ecosystem. Lichens are the product of the symbiosis between fungus and algae that cannot frequently live together in harsh environments, where one cannot live by themselves. A large majority of these terrestrial plants have also a symbiosis with soil fungi called the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), where it proves minerals to plants in exchange for carbohydrates. These are just a few examples of why symbiosis can profit or live mutually. There are so many benefits to either, depending on the environment.

Studying the relationship between all of these kinds of topics also made me think of Professor Vesna's project that was about the Zodiac. Where art-science collaborative mutating genetics, animals, and culture. Honoring animals as pets, companions, experimental projects, and food. As a vegetarian the word "experimental projects" and "food" stood out to me as I wondered if there was a more ethical approach to these two. I remembered learning about another approach to eating meat that I had learned in high school when I went on a trip to learn more about the indigenous. While western society has found it to create specific animal rights, I researched and found that most indigenous peoples have always been aware of the fact that animals, like humans, should be respected. Many animal rights movements will separate animals from humans and see them as a scarce resource that needs protection and management. Instead, indigenous people will argue that it cannot be separated and their treatment affects their presence stating that "an animal will only offer you its body as a gift if the correct treatment has been given to them, while western society and animal right groups see hunting as purely violent, irrational, and a primitive practice". I don't necessarily see eating animals as something that is bad, however, I think this approach is far more respectful than what we are educated on.