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What Would Happen If We All Aimed A Laser Pointer At The Moon? Science Has Answers

What Would Happen If We All Aimed A Laser Pointer At The Moon? Science Has Answers

Take a second and picture everyone on the planet with a laser pointer. Everyone then takes their laser pointer and aims it at the moon. Granted, this is a crazy “What if?” scenario, but aren’t you curious what would happen? Surprisingly, science has some answers.

Possible Problems In Worldwide Laser Pointer Pointing At The Moon

The first thing that you probably thought of is that not everyone sees the moon at the same time. How will people on the other side of the planet point their lasers at the moon when they are being blinded by the sun at the moment?

The second thing that needs to be considered is whether we are going to shine the lasers at a full moon or a crescent moon.

The third thing that could be a problem is aim. Everyone being able to hit the moon at the same time would be tremendously difficult. Let’s make sure we get our eye exams first.

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The fourth thing is how much power do we require for the experiment? I’m not sure what the standard laser pointer wattage is.

How The Experiment Of Pointing Lasers At The Moon Works

This is how we would address the above concerns for this experiment:

75% of the population on Earth is between 0 degrees E and 120 degrees E. Knowing this information, we should try to set up this bizarre experiment for when the moon is over the Arabian Sea.

If we choose to do this on the new moon (instead of a full moon) we will be able to see the results better. The new moon has pros and cons. On the positive side, we will be able to see better because part of the moon will be dark. The con is that it’s a smaller target. If some of us didn’t get our eye exams we might have trouble aiming our lasers.

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We are going to go with the quarter moon. This allows us to compare the light effect on the dark side and the light side. We always try to get more bang for our buck in the science world.

The typical laser pointer is about 5 milliwatts. That doesn’t mean a lot to me, but experts say that it is a tight enough beam to hit the moon. They also say that it would spread out over a large area of the surface once it got to the moon. The atmosphere could also absorb and distort the light a tiny bit, but the consensus is that it would reach there.

For this this experiment to work , everyone would take aim at the moon and press the button at half an hour after midnight.

The Strange And Curious Results

Disappointment. There is no real change in the appearance on the surface of the moon. This makes a little bit of sense because you will notice that the sunlight bathes the moon in a large amount of light. In fact, it gives much more light to the moon than the laser pointers and this is why there is no noticeable change.

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We Need More Power

If the experiment was repeated with more power (1 watt instead of 5 milliwatts), the disappointing results would be relatively the same. This time; however, the laser would be a green color instead. Another thing to note is that the higher watt laser is seriously dangerous and could cause blindness or skin burns. These lasers would still be too weak to see any difference from Earth. Additionally, if you were on the moon and looking at all the laser pointers, you would see less light than we see when we look at the moon.

If we used a searchlight (like on coast guard helicopters) to all point at the moon, we are making some progress. Unfortunately, it would still be really hard to see.

If we used IMAX projectors (30,000 watts), we would still barely make any visible progress.

It is only if we all got the most powerful spotlight on Earth (like the one on top of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas) and added a lens array to help it focus on the moon that is would finally be visible. Way to go everyone!

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Lastly, if we used The Department of Defense megawatt lasers we would manage to match the brightness of sunlight!

If that isn’t enough weirdness for the day go and download this What If? ebook, which covers many other fantastic hypothetical questions. The interesting book also has graphics to illustrate the differences in watts.

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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