EZMiscellaneous Thoughts and Ramblings for the week.
I just finished reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry on my Kindle Paperwhite. It was the perfect book to read while I was in the operating waiting room while Yvonne was having her foot surgery earlier this week. Despite its title, I was anything but in a hurry, but it was written for an audience for people like me who lack the technical background required to understand astrophysics.
An interesting note, Yvonne's surgery took 3 hours and I was in the waiting room for upwards of 4 hours. While I was reading, or trying to read this book, I got to also listen to a lady talk to her friends about all of the drama going on in her life: here recent DUI, her credit card being stolen (or was it one of her grandkids?), how she loves Oprah, Hilary Clinton & Donald Trump, etc.
Despite the somewhat entertaining and annoying at the same time oral distractions in the waiting room, here are quite a few notes from this week's read:
The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.
Before you get excited about Earth's mighty mountains, you should know that the spread in height from the deepest undersea trenches to the tallest mountains is about a dozen miles, yet Earth's diameter is nearly eight thousand miles. So, contrary to what it looks like to teeny humans crawling on its surface, Earth, as a cosmic object, is remarkably smooth.
This is why, in spite of Earth's mountains and valleys, as well as being slightly flattened from pole to pole, when viewed from space, Earth is indistinguishable from a perfect sphere.
In short, where gravity is high, the high places tend to fall, filling in the low places-a phenomenon that sounds almost biblical, in preparing the way for the Lord: "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain" (Isaiah 40:4). That's a recipe for a sphere if there ever was one. For all these reasons, we expect pulsars to be the most perfectly shaped spheres in the universe.
Sir Isaac Newton had done that back in the 1600s, leading him to name the familiar seven colors of the visible spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. (Yes, the colors do indeed spell Roy G. Biv.)
Herschel inadvertently discovered "infra" red light, a brand-new part of the spectrum found just "below" red, reported in
What's beyond violet? "Ultra" violet, better known today as UV. Filling out the entire electromagnetic spectrum, in order of low-energy and low-frequency to high-energy and high-frequency, we have: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ROYGBIV, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays. Modern civilization has deftly exploited each of these bands for countless household and industrial applications, making them familiar to us all.
The world's largest radio telescope, completed in 2016, is called the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, or "FAST" for short. It was built by China in their Guizhou Province, and is larger in area than thirty football fields. If aliens ever give us a call, the Chinese will be the first to know.
All waves follow the simple equation: speed = frequency x wavelength. At a constant speed, if you increase the wavelength, the wave itself will have smaller frequency, and vice versa, so that when you multiply the two quantities you recover the same speed of the wave every time. Works for light, sound, and even fans doing the "Wave" at sports arenas-anything that's a traveling wave.
Satellites in "low" Earth orbit typically travel between one hundred and four hundred miles up, completing an orbit in about ninety minutes.
Orbiting high above this level, twenty-three thousand miles up (one-tenth of the distance to the Moon) are the communications satellites. At this special altitude, Earth's atmosphere is not only irrelevant, but the speed of the satellite is low enough for it to require a full day to complete one revolution around Earth. With an orbit precisely matching the rotation rate of Earth, these satellites appear to hover, which make them ideal for relaying signals from one part of Earth's surface to another.
International Space Station orbits at about 250 miles up.
Contrary to what most people suppose, a planet does not orbit its host star. Instead, both the planet and its host star revolve around their common center of mass. The more massive the planet, the larger the star's response must be, and the more measurable the jiggle gets when you analyze the star's light. Unfortunately for planet-hunting aliens, Earth is puny, so the Sun barely budges, which would further challenge alien engineers.
Consider everything we've got that generates radio waves and microwaves: not only traditional radio itself, but also broadcast television, mobile phones, microwave ovens, garage-door openers, car-door unlockers, commercial radar, military radar, and communications satellites. We're ablaze in long-frequency waves-spectacular evidence that something unusual is going on here, because in their natural state, small rocky planets emit hardly any radio waves at all.
Our galaxy contains more than a hundred billion stars, and the known universe harbors some hundred billion galaxies.
Extrapolating from the current catalogs, suggests as many as forty billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone. Those are the planets our descendants might want to visit someday, by choice, if not by necessity.
Time to get cosmic. There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on any beach, more stars than seconds have passed since Earth formed, more stars than words and sounds ever uttered by all the humans who ever lived.
During our brief stay on planet Earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore-in part because it's fun to do. But there's a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us.
And finally... Earth's Moon is about 1/400th the diameter of the Sun, but it is also 1/400th as far from us, making the Sun and the Moon the same size on the sky-a coincidence not shared by any other planet-moon combination in the solar system, allowing for uniquely photogenic total solar eclipses.
Which leads us to...
EZPictures of the Week: Last year many of us in Team Thompson experienced a "once in a TTHQ lifetime" total solar eclipse. I can still remember how the temperature dropped and for the better part of a minute, eclipse glasses were not required.
EZVideo of the Week:
Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot OFFICIAL
EZQuote of the Week:
Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice. - Henry Ford
Do you know how hard it is to take a group selfie with those glasses on?
Bill's tailgate was a good spot to watch from.
But this picture of Phil, Kelly, Eric and Bill Lundstrom just outside of Madras, OR is my favorite picture of the event.
Yvonne resting comfortably immediately after surgery with the best comfort cats in the world. Bo keeps a close watch and guards the bedroom door while Daisy circles before settling down close to Yvonne.
This is what a 100% total eclipse of the sun selfie looks like.