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We wouldn't exist without hydrogen. Right?

  1. Mar 2, 2012 #1
    Ok everyone, ever since i was 16 i have been studying this kind of stuff. Anyways I'm now 18 and a senior in high school and really want to get one of my theories out there. Im not giving my complete theory but i want you guys to give me straight answers on this. We all know we were basically made of stardust. Well everything even atoms are made of mostly hydrogen. Well someday hydrogen will run out and we'l have no more left. This is right isn't it? Hydrogen combines with helium which creates massive elements. So basically someday down the road when stars can no longer exist because of no more hydrogen then it would be impossible for any kind of human life to exist too right? Also is there a site (this is off topic) where i can post my own info and copyright my own theory so no one can steal it? I wanted to use the physic forums for this because you guys are the most intelligent people i ever heard on forums about this kind of stuff. This is just a hobby of mine but I'm trying to make stuff that gets out there someday and I'm hoping i only get more clever since I'm already making my theories up at only 18 years old. Anyways thanks for reading and tell me what you guy think about hydrogen running out someday.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2012 #2

    russ_watters

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    Welcome to PF!

    This may come off as harsh, but you need to hear it. It is great that you have an interest in science, but your idea is kind of a mess, for two basic reasons:

    1. Phsyics is a serious pursuit that typically takes a good decade of full-time study before it is possible to actually understand enough of it to make a real contribution to expanding the body of knowledge. Dipping your toe in for two years as a hobby hasn't even given you enough knowledge to make sense of an idea that really is pretty basic.
    2. More deeply, it is not even clear to me that you understand what a "theory" is. I recommend reading up on (google) the "scientific method". Until you get a handle on that, you don't even really understand what the pursuit of science is supposed to look like, much less be able to do it yourself.

    If your goal is to make science a career, it would be best if you put off the idea of doing original work for at least 5 years.

    If your goal is to dabble in science as a hobby and wish to make a meaningful contribution....well....I'm sorry but that is virtually impossible. Those days have been gone for centuries.
     
  4. Mar 2, 2012 #3

    Drakkith

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    What Russ said is pretty much true. However I will point out that learning science as a hobby, as I have so far, isn't a bad thing. Understanding how the universe functions has given me great satisfaction even though I don't have the ability to do the math required to *really* grasp it all. Even if you don't get into science seriously, don't discount the effect that you can have on others, especially younger generations. Richard Feynman, one of the great scienctists of the 20th century, was greatly influenced by his father, who taught him some very basic things when he was very young that greatly influenced him throughout his life.

    So, to answer your questions:
    You are partially correct. Hydrogen itself is one of the elements. Each element consists of a number of protons, electrons, and neutrons, which are subatomic particles. Hydrogen has 1 proton, helium has 2 protons, lithium 3, etc. When hydrogen "combines" to form helium, what is actually happening is the protons are fusing together through a process called Nuclear Fusion, which combines the two protons together in one nucleus. We don't say that helium is made of hydrogen, because hydrogen is a seperate element. Instead we say that each element is made up of these smaller particles. One day, far into the future, most of the hydrogen will be used up by stars and will no longer be available to form new ones.
    See these links for more:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_element
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_nucleosynthesis
     
  5. Mar 2, 2012 #4
    I would suggest ignoring anything I post then, because I am just a hobbyist as well.

    However, even as a mere hobbyist, I think I know enough to handle the OP which I will do in a separate reply ...
     
  6. Mar 2, 2012 #5

    Drakkith

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    I'm pretty sure Russ means that the ability to contribute to new theories is severely limited unless you have substantial training in that area. Which is pretty much true. There are plenty of other ways to have "meaningful" contributions to science though.
     
  7. Mar 2, 2012 #6
    You seem to be confusing a lot of things here, and I will try to break it down in ways I do not see addressed by previous replies to your post. The problem, I think, is perhaps better understood as a logical fallacy than a scientific one: When something is created, the loss or destruction of the creator does not mean the loss and destruction of the created.

    Hydrogen is, by every model of the universe I am aware of, the most abundant element and the one that 'started it all.' It was the only element that existed prior to the first stars, and even with the 15 or so billion years of trillions of stars across the universe starting, fusing hydrogen into heavier elements, and the vast majority of those stars having fused all the hydrogen they could into heavier elements before dying in supernovae, novae or simply dying out for smaller stars, hydrogen remains vastly the most abundant element. Every element heavier than hydrogen only exists because it was forged in the nuclear furnaces of stars, combining hydrogen atoms to form helium and helium atoms to form every element.

    Our Sun will die, taking the earth with it when it swells out in its death throes to likely encompass the earth (and even if it doesn't expand that for, would certainly swell to get close enough to the earth to boil off not just the oceans and our atmosphere, but boil the rock and heavy elements away as well) long before the universe runs out of hydrogen to form new stars.

    Even if this were not the case, though, if the last atom of hydrogen in the last star containing hydrogen were to fuse beyond hydrogen, leaving behind only the hydrogen external to stars (interstellar clouds, brown dwarfs and planetary-sized objects too small to sustain fusion), that would not have an effect on existing hydrogen (such as the hydrogen component of water that makes up some two-thirds of the mass of a human body).

    All evolutionary ancestors of human beings -- homo sapiens -- are now extinct. Their lack of continued existence does not mean we cannot exist. By the same token, all the heavier-than-hydrogen elements such as oxygen and carbon that are components of human beings and all life on the planet were created in stars that died. It was, in fact, the death throes of those stars that the heaviest elements were created (especially iron and heavier). All life on the planet, in fact, could not exist if those stars had not died (and thus created the elements, in their deaths, that make up our planet and we biological entities on Earth).

    Put more simply: You do not cease to exist when your parents die. They biologically created you, but you are an entity not biologically dependent on them after you were created. Similarly, the destruction or loss of what created us -- biological or nuclear-elemental -- does not directly correlate to ceasing our continued existence.
     
  8. Mar 2, 2012 #7

    russ_watters

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    You utterly misunderstood my post.

    The OP is at the begininning of a very long path of learning what is already known and needs to stick to learning instead of trying to create for a while.
     
  9. Mar 2, 2012 #8

    To throw your statements back at you: if your goal is to educate others in science with English and your level of word choice and sentence structure as a hobby, well, I am sorry but that is virtually impossible.

    If you can only communicate with people who share your credentials and acquired expertise, that does not lessen your value of contributing toward science, but it does condemn your ability to share what you learn with others not on your level of knowledge.

    I myself only have a couple years of high school physics behind me. I would not pretend that, even with just that, I cannot see very fundamental flaws of the original poster, I do not see any constructive value in dissuading them from asking questions.

    Science is built on ignorance and mistakes, and only improves in overcoming them. From that supposition, I propose a logical hypothesis: Dissuading an uneducated person from asking questions, however fundamentally flawed, is a slight against scientific progress.
     
  10. Mar 2, 2012 #9

    Pengwuino

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    I'd strongly suggest you heed the advice of Russ. No serious scientist copyrights their ideas. That's not even close to how science works. The difference between a scientist and someone who doesn't know what the hell they're talking about can be summed up rather simply. The scientist gains an extensive knowledge about what he is interested in by learning as much as there is to know about the subject to a reasonable extent (typically proportional to how much interest he/she actually has in an area), understands and becomes practiced in the type of mathematics required to formulate a theory, and only then attempts to further the frontiers of science by developing their own theory. The non-scientist simply comes up with ideas and thoughts that totally bypass that whole process. Thoughts and ideas do not make predictions. Anyone can have thoughts and ideas. Predictions require actual numerical calculations that must agree completely with everything we already know about science.

    This should not discourage you, though. At this point, you don't even know how much you don't know about science. We were all at that stage at some point. At some point in our lives, we were all practically clueless about how much there is to know about Physics. In fact, I would bet good money on the idea that we all had our own unscientific "theories" before we knew what it meant to create a real scientific theory. The first step to becoming a scientist and actually doing science involves understanding what it means to have a theory.
     
  11. Mar 2, 2012 #10

    Drakkith

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    I agree with Russ, you seem to be misunderstanding the meaning of his post. He isn't trying to dissuade the OP from asking question, he is explaining that the ability to meaningfully contribute to science by developing a new theory is WELL beyond the capabilities of someone who just does it as a hobby.
     
  12. Mar 2, 2012 #11

    Pengwuino

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    There is a difference between asking questions and proposing a theory. The OP did the latter. This forum is to disseminate peer-reviewed, scientifically valid information to other students of science or people interested in science. Someone who wanders onto this forum out of the blue may see someones personal theory and feel it is fact. This is exactly what the forum moderators try to stop. This is not a place for people to throw around their own ideas just as a university classroom is not the place for random people off the street to come in and tell their own ideas of how the world works.
     
  13. Mar 2, 2012 #12
    Unless I missed the announcement in the news, a Grand Unified Law of Absolutely Everything has not yet been achieved and proven beyond theory, so it is improbable that anyone knows what we don't know about science. I share the sentiment you expressed before this, though, that the original poster, however fundamentally flawed his understanding of nuclear physics is, should be encouraged, not discouraged from asking questions and learning and I hope that notion prevails among the actual expert scientists in the field on physicsforums.com, or my own participation will be quite short-lived. Fortunately, prior to this thread, my own stupid fundamentally flawed questions and theories are getting much more constructive responses than the first reply to this thread provided.
     
  14. Mar 2, 2012 #13
    Fortunately for me, the uneducated theories I've pitched in a couple threads, despite my fundamental lacking knowledge, already have gotten much more constructive replies than the destructive intolerance toward n00biness I am seeing repeated in this particular thread.
     
  15. Mar 2, 2012 #14

    Drakkith

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    Then you are being stubborn and unwilling to listen or read the posts carefully. It has been explained more than once that although one cannot propose new theories unless they are well educated on the subject they are working on, they can contribute in some way. This has nothing to do with either PF rules or "N00bness", it is a reality. That train of thought is better expunged early in life, else the person waste a large amount of time in a futile attempt to develop a new theory before they even understand the current ones. In addition, PF rules also do not allow personal theories, which although the OP didn't propose one, it was simply mentioned that he cannot do so here.

    Also, I doubt that you have proposed any "theories", as a scientific theory is different from just pitching an idea around in a thread.
     
  16. Mar 2, 2012 #15

    Pengwuino

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    Actually we have a very good idea of what we don't know in science. We have a massive foundation that has been developed over centuries and we have a very good idea of where our holes in our understanding are.
     
  17. Mar 2, 2012 #16
    Some people are taking my post too serious. I know i'm not going to be making my own discovery anytime. But I'm just trying to learn myself and write my own explanations on this kind of stuff and by the time I'm 50 i want to be serious into physics. I know after 2 years I'm still so far behind i probably sound idiotic to you people. But all i was trying to ask basically is if hydrogen will someday run out? Atoms are made of 75% of hydrogen so whats going to happen once it runs out? Also like a guy said above its been around before the big bang so I'm trying to get into a good study of hydrogen because i think it sets the basics for a lot of things. Basically i just want people to realize how much stuff we take for granite and don't know that this is the best time to live in the universe because someday we will be in darkness with no stars. I know none of this will happen in billions of years but i like to extend my mind. However thanks for some of your post and if you guys have any good physic books for beginners you think i should get please tell me.
     
  18. Mar 2, 2012 #17

    DaveC426913

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    No need to wait 32 years. You could be into it professionally in a few short years if you apply yourself.

    You're not "behind" anything; you're right at the start with your whole career ahead of you!

    The vast portion of atoms in the universe are recycled. Most of what we see on Earth and in space were once in something else. We won't run out because they're not going anywhere.
     
  19. Mar 2, 2012 #18

    Nabeshin

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    This is actually a good serious question. To start off with, most stars only fuse a small portion of their entire hydrogen content before moving off the main sequence (and usually, eventually blowing away a lot of the remaining hydrogen out into space). This is because most stars are not completely convective, that is, they are not able to churn up material from the center to the outsides of the star and vice versa. Because of this, once the hydrogen in the core of the star runs out, the star is forced to move on. And as of course you should know, the core of a star contains much less volume than the outer envelope, so the majority of hydrogen remains untouched.

    Furthermore, there's hydrogen bound up in structures like the Earth or Jupiter which is relatively stable and will not change much, if at all, as the universe evolves.
     
  20. Mar 2, 2012 #19
    basically: no we will not run out of hydrogen because most of it will never end up in the core of a star. This is the understanding that I have.

    Most of it will remain floating around in giant gas clouds or in the interstellar/intergalactic medium
     
  21. Mar 2, 2012 #20

    Pengwuino

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    If you go to college and become a serious physicist, you could be writing your own papers and be taken seriously by the scientific community within 3-5 years. If you don't, you'll never be taken seriously (or well, it's highly highly highly unlikely). Being a theoretical physicist is not something one can do as a hobby.

    As Dave said, atoms are recycled. If you want to get serious about physics. Start going through a typical undergraduate calculus-based (you need to have calculus and if not, get started on it with Spivak or Stewart's Calc texts) physics text such as Serway's text.

    https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Scie...8274/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1330735137&sr=8-4
    https://www.amazon.com/Calculus-4th...=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330735172&sr=1-1

    Don't pay those ridiculous prices, though. A used bookstore or ebay should have the texts. Also, don't bother with the newest editions. Physics and Calculus at this level hasn't changed in almost a century and the only difference between the 9th and 2nd edition of a text is probably $200 and nicer graphics. There are tons of online resources as well.
     
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