About

Rhett Allain is an Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University. He enjoys teaching and talking about physics. Sometimes he takes things apart and can’t put them back together.

5 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello Dr Allain

    I just read your Wired article on the effect of planting trees on CO2 etc. You didn’t mention what happens to the carbon sequestered by each tree when the tree dies. Does it just disappear?

    1. The tree could decay and then go back to CO2 or it could get buried in the ground and eventual turn into fossil fuels so that when aliens take over the planet in a billion years, they too can ruin the atmosphere with their giant SUVs

      1. So unless the stock of trees continues to grow the effect on CO2 is zero, not even the small amount you mentioned. It might be a good plan to submit a Corrigendum to the Wired article.

  2. I also enjoyed your Fermi calculation of the carbon that would be removed from the atmosphere if everyone planted a tree. You might also note that the root mass of a tree is roughly equal to its above ground mass. That’s only a factor of two, but I was surprised to learn this some years back. People have only recently started systematically measuring root systems.

  3. Dear Dr Allain,
    I enjoyed your article in PhysicsWorld about “The Fictional Science of Science Fiction”. There is a minor point I wanted to make regarding 2001 A Space Odyssey (one of my all time favorite movies) getting airlocks right. Although its treatment of gravity and inertia in the airlock scene is spot on, there is in fact an error in human physiology, namely that David Bowman is shown holding his breath in the scene. Actually this is not the right course of action as the pressure differential would rupture his lungs. The thing to do in such instances (I know, we’ve all been there…) is to exhale continuously as much as possible. Arthur Clarke was an experienced scuba diver and knew this well, but unfortunately was absent from the set on the day the scene was shot (see him discuss that in an interview: https://youtu.be/F7HGwVqI_FM at 29:05 ). There is a really good explanation of the physiology in this report on the submarine escape technique taught at the Royal Navy sub school: https://youtu.be/H7IcI4ecVwk starting at 1:20.
    I know this is only peripheral to the point you were making in the article but thought I would mention it.
    Best wishes,
    Haris

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