“You’re not looking for perfection in your partner. Perfection is all about the ego. With soulmate love, you know that true love is what happens when disappointment sets in – and you’re willing to deal maturely with these disappointments.” -Karen Salmansohn
It’s been a great week full of great stories from the Universe here at Starts With A Bang! The topic for the next podcast has been chosen and you should get to see it all next week: on whether our Universe is the inside of a black hole or not! (It’s a fun one; you won’t want to miss it!) Most of us were clouded out of the Geminids, but that doesn’t mean this past week wasn’t a delight for scientific stories, including:
- How do I become an astronaut/astrophysicist? (for Ask Ethan),
- Supernovae glow for decades thanks to radioactivity (for Mostly Mute Monday),
- Spinning black hole swallows star,
- No, Earth is not overdue for a massive asteroid strike,
- Why does the ‘Windchill factor’ make you feel so cold, and
- A perfect Universe: could it have been born completely uniform?
For the ad-free fiends, these all go up a one-week delay over on Medium. Also, our Patreon support is a whopping 96% of the way to the next reward; can you help us get there? Finally, the book I’ve been working on gets turned in this week, so we’re almost there! And now, welcome to the best of what you’ve had to say on our comments of the week!
From Denier on truth, information and censorship: “Perhaps we have a right to be free from misinformation masquerading as truths, too.
That is a completely terrifying idea. I’m curious. After you have abolished the First Amendment, who do you propose should prosecute these violations of truth rights?
The point of my argument is this: When Global Warming Deniers spout off ad hominem attacks to discredit the idea of man made climate change, I cringe. Your ideas on this ring of a proactive ad hominem defense, and it is just as cringe worthy. Ideas should be evaluated by their worth…”
This is a hard problem. I have never advocated abolishing the first amendment — which, by the way, is about the government not making laws to restrict the freedom of the press or of the people to speech or assembly — nor do I advocate for it here. It is not a crime to be ignorant. It is not a crime to share your opinion. And you assert that it’s not a crime to lie. That it’s not a crime to willfully lie in an attempt to mislead people. Except, of course, where it is, as your lawyer friends-and-spouse will tell you.
We have all sorts of laws about the truth. There are truth in advertising laws. The FBI itself is inherently an anti-corruption agency. There are anti-fraud laws for the SEC. There are fraud and abuse laws for medical professionals. What you are saying is that scientific fraud, denial, or lying about it is not an abuse that is criminal today, and that doesn’t deserve to be. You are also saying that non-legal measures, like for:
- search engines and social networking sites to elevate the truth while treating lies like spam,
- for journalists and publications to have an obligation to report the truth rather than whatever agenda they choose,
- and that people should out-shout lies with truths,
should be abhorred as well. The second of those, by the way, is what I’ve explicitly advocated for many times over. But you deride all of those possibilities. So that is your position. And you want me to defend the antithesis of that? How is your position defensible?
From eric on the same topic, attempting to interpret my thoughts, “Reading all of his comments on the subject together, it seems to me his tone is about 90% wishing the public would be more educated and less naively accepting consumers of news, and about 10% wishing there was a better way to address libel, slander, con artistry, lying for political benefit, and similar types of expression.”
My point is not that scientists and PhDs should have the exclusive voices on policy; that was never my intention. It is that when it comes to factual information, there are correct statements and there are incorrect ones. There are truths that come about from looking at the full suite of evidence, and there are lies that come about from failing to do so. And that should be where the policy conversation begins: with everyone agreeing on the facts. We have not reached that point. There are people in power — and people supporting them — actively working against that point. This, in my book, is a problem.
If it is not a problem in your book (not directed at eric or anyone in particular, for that matter), perhaps you can explain why. And perhaps, while you’re at it, you can explain how we can expect to have a nation and a world that moves forwards rather than slides into darkness and ignorance, because I sure can’t see it. Thanks for the interesting discussion about this topic, though. Mostly civil, too, which I appreciate!
From EpiPete on satellite formation flying: ““…what you saw was most likely a very temporary configuration…”
But possibly not, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_formation_flying and
Absolutely! And this is exciting, because formation flying allows us to obtain information over time in a semi-continuous manner. Satellites in this configuration offer the possibility of monitoring the same points on Earth repeatedly over longer timescales and at higher resolutions than a single satellite would ever allow. If what was originally seen was a formation flying of multiple satellites, know that this is what you gain from it.
From Ed Bailey on becoming an astronaut/astrophysicist: “…you can have all the drive and love you want, but some people aren’t as smart as others.. I guess I could’ve stayed into astronomy more as I was working through my life, and maybe I could have a apo refractor now. But a 5 inch reflector is going to have to do.I enjoy reading the posts and articles about astronomy on FB and the internet, heck i’ve even read some articles about particle physics, that leave the math out. Inner space to outer space, that’s some fascinating stuff!”
You know, the Universe — at least as I see it — is a collection of wonderful stories. It is our pursuit of knowledge in all its forms and on all scales. It is a look back at the earliest of times, the largest assemblages of structure, and our cosmic cousins. It is something that everyone can be involved in, whether that means actively working on or merely being aware of and appreciating. That is the greatest part of science and of scientific knowledge: it’s for everyone. Part of why I do what I do is to bring that story, as best as we know it, to all of you.
From Craig Thomas: “There is very little heat transfer in a [vacuum], so the immediate effect on the outer cells of a sudden drop in pressure is that they will boil.
As the outermost parts of the body boil off, the rest of the body becomes gradually in turn exposed to the sudden drop in pressure and boils away too.
Only once the temperature drops to below -50 does the vapor and decompressed bits of body turn solid.”
Super true! In a vacuum, the way things loose heat is by radiation, which is not necessarily very efficient. As far as ferezing or boiling goes, I answered this question for water in space about 2 years ago. It might be time to do an updated version for the approaching new year!
From eric on becoming a scientist: “I would add to that that the day-to-day life of most scientists is typically very mundane. Its not all that exciting. There are of course exceptions, but I wouldn’t go into science expecting that you’re going to spend 8-6 collecting blood samples from sedated tigers in the jungle or observing the first ever images of flowing water on Mars.”
You are describing the slog. The sitting at your desk and calculating. The sitting at a computer and programming. The grant writing. The proposals. The waiting. The composing messages. You know: the day-to-day work of it all. If you don’t like that — if you hate every day and only live for the big victories and milestones — it probably isn’t for you. There are lots of career choices and paths you can take, and you are not a failure if you don’t choose the ones that your mentors did. The beauty of your life is that you get to define what success means for it.
From Denier on this spinning black hole, not a supernova: “Is it theorized to be super bright because that type of event produces more energy than a supernova? Or is was it super bright because the curvature of the time-space around the SMBH acted as a lens to focus a greater portion of the energy released in our direction? Was it intrinsically brighter or just brighter to us?”
So yes, this should produce more energy than a supernova. In particular, it should produce more luminous energy than a supernova, which is why multiwavelength observations were essential. The absolute magnitude (-23.5) was more than twice as luminous as any recorded supernova. The spectral features, in detail, differ from supernovae but align with luminous flares. But it requires a supermassive black hole and rapid rotation to reproduce the late-time UV brightening seen along with the spectral lines.
Lensing doesn’t play a role. You can read the whole paper (full text) here if you want to see it for yourself. It’s a remarkable find and a great discovery. Objects like this may be much rarer than supernovae, but it’s very exciting that they exist at all!
From Omega Centauri on asteroid fear-mongering: “This latest release strikes me as an attempt at Phishing the incoming president. Maybe he will throw big resources at NASA if they can convince him? The labs of course would supply the Nuclear explosive expertise, they would love to be seen in a new light.”
The thing is, nuclear technology is incredibly useful. I have long been an advocate of nuclear power for green energy, for Pu-239 for space exploration, and — if we actually did need asteroid redirection — for a nuclear explosion as the best current technological option. But counting on that last option as a motivator is… a little ridiculous? I didn’t think it was a sales pitch, but what do I know; if it sells, maybe I should shut up and take the NASA funding however it comes!
It is a shame that scientists are not given the same autonomy to evaluate their own field and the field’s scientific priorities the way that say, economists are. The head of NASA has practically no authority over what’s funded compared to, say, the way the federal reserve has authority over what the fiscal policy and the interest rates of the United States are. Why is that? I am sure the people who want to keep scientists out of science policy will happily tell me!
From ToSeek on a hot breeze on a hot day: “In the summer, it’s the opposite: breezes are welcome, and there’s nothing much worse than have it be hot, sticky, and still (as summers generally are here in the mid-Atlantic).”
Not hot enough in the mid-Atlantic. I am explicitly referring to when I lived in Tucson, AZ. When the temperature is well over 100 ºF (38 ºC) and the wind blows, it’s like turning a hot blowdryer on your sweaty body. It makes it so much worse. I am not sure, from a scientific standpoint, where the temperature/wind/humidity line lies, but I am sure that what I experienced was horrific from a biological point of view.
From Young CC Prof on the same topic: “I can tell you that at sufficiently high temperatures (well above the human body) a breeze actually does heat you up further, by stripping away the blanket of slightly cooler air that sweat evaporation created on your skin.”
The beauty of a swamp (evaporative) cooler is that in dry climates, the evaporation process can cool the air by about 21 ºF (12 ºC) from outside to inside. If your sweaty skin acts like a swamp cooler, that keeps you cool as well. But if that cool air is immediately replaced with hotter air blasting you… trust me, you won’t feel cool. You will feel gross. And like you want to move anywhere else. Anywhere. Arizona and I don’t exactly get along in the summer.
And finally, from Anonymous Coward on the fundamental asymmetry of the Universe: “And it turns out that asymmetry is actually the origin of all creation. If the laws of the universe were perfectly symmetrical the universe would be empty.”
This is true in a great many ways. If the laws of physics were symmetric between matter and antimatter, there would be no stars or galaxies. The density of the Universe would be about a factor of 10^10 lower. But if there were even more symmetries:
- Particles wouldn’t have rest mass, as an unbroken Higgs/electroweak symmetry would forbid it.
- Decays would never happen as they do if C, P and T symmetries were all independently conserved.
- If there were no initial, asymmetric density fluctuations in the Universe, structure couldn’t have formed.
- And if the conformal symmetry weren’t broken, we’d never get asymptotic freedom; we couldn’t have atomic nuclei.
Really, all of existence depends on nature not being symmetric. The next time you think about theories with additional symmetries — SUSY, string theory, etc. — think about that.
Thanks for a great week everyone; keep on expressing yourselves and disagreeing like the thoughtful adults you are. I appreciate it, and can’t wait to see you back here soon!