Monday, September 19, 2016

2017 TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE! Start planning NOW!

Hey There! Hi There! Ho There! It's been well over a year since I've posted anything. I decided to concentrate on my last year of teaching and not have all these side things going on. So, just in case you are interested in the petty little thing I call my life, I retired for a 2nd time in June of this year and am now happily ensconced in New Hampshire with my lovely bride of a dozen years looking for a few canine buddies to rescue.

So, anyway, just a quick blast to let you know of the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE happening next year!

334 days 22 hours 19 minutes 33 seconds to go! 32 seconds... 31 seconds.... 30 seconds...

Yes, it's never to early to plan for something like this. August 21 2017 will see the first total solar eclipse sweeping across the entire continental US since 1918! The last total eclipse to hit the US at all was in 1978, but it only clipped 5 states in the Northwest and it was cloudy & raining...

For starters, below is a map showing the progression and local times from Newport OR @ 10:15 AM MT to Charlotte SC @ 2:46 PM EDT.


(Image stolen from GreatAmericanEclipse.com )

I'll be in Kansas with my lovely wife for the viewing with a real astronomer buddy of mine, Mike Ford, a real honest-ta-goodness observatory director (Banner Creek Observatory, KS) and past NASA co-worker.

You may notice from the above map that CT, Corrupticut, where most of the recipients of this incomparable newsletter reside and the state of my most recent happy departure, will be at about 75% total. It'll look sorta kinda like this image:


Image Stolen From Wiki

SOME DETAILS:

DETAIL #1: Totality, occurring within the yellow strip in the map above, means the Moon will totally block out the Sun. Totally, Dude. Everywhere else in the continental US, Canadia, and Mexico will witness various degrees of partial blockage. The following image is totality from 2015 taken in Norway. Notice the prominent Corona I warn you about later. Yikes and GadZooks.


(Images: NASA 2015 over Svalbard, Norway; Astronomy Picture of the Day )

DETAIL #2: The other two types of solar eclipse are Annular and partial. Annular is when the Moon is, indeed, directly in the path of the Sun, but is too far from Earth in its elliptical path to block it all. It's sometimes referred to as the "Ring Eclipse". Partials, right image, will be seen everywhere in North America on 08/21/2017 away from the totality path.


(Images stolen from WikiPedia...)

DETAIL #3: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE ECLIPSE AT ANY TIME! NOOOOOO! That is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Not even if someone gives you the dreaded TRIPLE DOG DARE YA! Even though it will seem like it's nighttime during totality, there is so much pure EM radiation in several forms of high-energy photons coming from the Sun's invisible atmosphere, the Corona, and surface, the Photosphere, that you would cause irreparable harm to your poor little melting retinas. In fact, if you look long enough, your head would explode. Well, maybe not really explode, but...
I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH! After every solar eclipse, there are plenty of stories of stupid people blinding themselves because, "All I did was look. How was I supposed to know?" These miscreants belong in the same category as the idiots who blow off their hands playing with a "harmless" firecracker in front of their kids. Idiots... But, I digress...
THIS website offers the cheapest Eclipse Viewing Glasses I've found. Coincidentally, that website is Eclipse2017.org... As cheap as $1.50 each when ordering a dozen or more... Other sites I've found are running $8 or more per pair. Buy a batch of them and protect your loved ones! The idiots are on their own...

So, start planning your trip now! This would make a great Pre-School event before heading back to the trenches of Academia. To help in planning, here are some cool websites to head to:

1. WEBSITE #1 : Full graphical description of where and when totality occurs all the way from Oregon to S Carolina. Examples of TN and SC below.

2. WEBSITE #2 : Astronomy Magazine's "25 Things You Should Know" about this eclipse.

3. WEBSITE #3 : The Great American Eclipse 2017 full scale hard-core science knowledge. More here than anyone would ever need.

4. WEBSITE #4 : Sky & Telescope magazine sponsors a 5-Night tour centered in Nashville with plenty of side travel and experts. At $2999, I find it a little pricey, but who am I to deprive wealthy teachers and students from an educational event...

I will send out more at a much later date, but NOW is not a bad time to plan a family trip of a lifetime! Head to Oregon! Head to Wyoming! Head to any of the 14 states this monster will be hitting! Except Montana... Poor Montana... The eclipse does hit Montana, but the entire path of darkness is in an area where there are no roads, no towns, no people that anyone else cares to know; only critters that would kill you and sage brush that scares me...

Cheers.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

ISON: Alive, Dead, or Playing Hookie?

ISON update 11/28/13 6:30PM EST.

Well, well, well. After making about a bajillion posts on Facebook about ISON, the long 50 million year journey from Mr. Oort'd Cloud, its perilous and much watched advance toward the Sun, its perihelion journey, and its apparent death, it now looks like some of it may have lived! Damn comets!

Above image is compliments of SolarHam.com. It shows what MIGHT be a small bit of ISON still traveling in the trajectory it was heading in hours ago. Reports from ESA, European Space Agancy, via CNN claim this is nothing more than some of the original tail of ISON, but the nucleus (solid part) is gone.

Stay tuned, this may be the Little Comet That Could.

Comet ISON Update 11/28/2013

I've been busy running a few online things about ISON, including a TV appearance on WTNH Ch8 show called CT Style, and have neglected my own blog... A few online updates at WXEdge.com:

1. 09/16 Tracking Comet ISON (Interview with Meteorologist Erika Martin)
2. 10/18 ISON Coming Into View (Interview with Meteorologist Erika Martin)
3. ISON Comes Alive

Here's a few updates on ISON! It's looking GOOD!

Both above images compliments of NASA's SOHO.

In the last few days, NASA and the proverbial ton of amateur astronomers have been keeping their collective eyes on ISON as it makes its “death” plunge toward the Sun. The above images are stills from a sequence of 97 shots taken by NASA’s SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) yesterday and today (Wed & Thurs). Note a few things:

1. ISON brightens drastically overnight! This is great news! It means the Sun is blowing off gases by sublimating ice and not just making ISON fall apart by shedding dirt and rocks. The indication here is that ISON is still intact and MAY make it all the way. He says with fingers crossed…
2. ISON’s double tail is evident! The brighter “upper” tail is dirt & dust falling off after the ice holding it in place is gone. The longer fainter tail is the ion tail caused by solar winds (high energy protons & electrons) smacking into the gases surrounding the comet, knocking electrons off these atoms, then as the electrons scramble to reform with these now positively charged gas molecules, they emit light by dropping back to their ground state.
3. In both images, solar CME’s are evident. In the first image, you can clearly see a Coronal Mass Ejection expanding downward. In the 2nd image, one is seen heading toward the seven o’clock position. Had one of these smacked ISON directly, it may have spelled an early doom.

This image is a composite of three observatories.

According to Dr. Phil Plait at BadAstronomy.com (personal friend and hero):

The picture above is a combination of three different views from space-based solar observatories taken at 16:45 UTC (11:45 EST) today [Wednesday 11/27/2013]. I’ll explain, but the important thing to note is that ISON looks intact, despite earlier worries, and is poised to put on quite a show. In the picture, the inner (orangish) circle is the disk of the Sun seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, observed in the far ultraviolet. It’s there to give you a sense of scale; mind you, the Sun is about 1.4 million km (860,000 miles) across. The red ring is from the NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, showing the space directly around the Sun. The streamers are from the solar wind, subatomic particles flung out by the Sun’s fierce magnetic field. The blue is also from SOHO, but shows a much larger area around the Sun (the black line to the upper right is an arm that holds a disk of metal used to block out the direct light from the Sun, allowing fainter objects to be seen).
Above image compliments of Damian Peach (UK Astrophotographer) & SpaceWeather.com

Want to watch ISON live today as it makes the perihelion trip? NASA is running a live Google+ hangout with real honest-ta-goodness scientists and live telescope views from around the world and space. Again, according to Phil Plait:

But you can watch the whole thing live, with me, and a pile of NASA scientists on Google+! NASA is holding a live video Hangout on G+ during ISON’s perihelion passage (peri = close, helion = Sun, so perihelion is the closest point in an object’s orbit to the Sun). The event is from 18:00 – 20:30 UTC (1:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST). There will be live feed from NASA’s SOHO Sun-observing satellite (that should be spectacular) and from the Kitt Peak Observatory solar telescope. Guests include astronomers C. Alex Young, W. Dean Pesnell, Karl Battams (who runs theSunGrazingComets feed on Twitter), and me! I’ll be on from 1:30 – 2:30 EST to talk about the comet, the Sun, and what we’ll be seeing on the screen. We’ll also be answering questions live from Twitter; ask away using the hashtags#ISON and #askNASA.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Absolutely Incredible Video of an EXPLODING Perseid Meteor!

Via Universe Today,
Personally, I’ve never seen anything like this, and photographer and digital artist Michael K. Chung said he couldn’t believe what he saw when he was processing images he took for a timelapse of the Perseid meteor shower. It appears he captured a meteor explosion and the resulting expansion of a shock wave or debris ring. “It was taken early in the morning on August 12, 2013 from my backyard in Victorville, CA,” Michael told Universe Today via email. “The fade to white is NOT an edit- it is overexposure due to the sun coming up. From what I can tell, the timelapse sequence of the explosion and expanding debris span an actual time of approximately 20 minutes.”
Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/104149/incredible-footage-shows-a-perseid-meteor-exploding/#ixzz2cJjb6qkc

Friday, February 15, 2013

Russian Meteor Impacts CONFIRMED!

This is a startling reminder that "Space Is a Dangerous Place"!


Image: RM-Crater Image Credit: RT ] Photo courtesy of the press service of the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for the Chelyabinsk Region.(RIA Novosti)

News just broke from RT Online (http://rt.com/news/meteorite-crash-urals-chelyabinsk-283/ ) that three distinct impact sites have been located! Two are in a frozen lake (images on next slides) and one in a near-by town. I quote RT: "Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.”

Above image is a confirmed meteorite strike. This is, according to the Russian Interior Miisistry, the hole bored into a frozen lake just out of town. Small black “fragments” measuring 1-cm of “black matter”, not to be confused with Dark Matter, were found spread around the impact site. There is apparently another hole in the ice of the same lake and one small crater found 80-km northwest of Chebarkul. This is too cool! Reports also state that a zinc factory in town was struck by a fragment and collapsed. Images are not conclusive and investigators are searching the rubble as I type.

Before you buy into most of the media hype/errors, here is what we know at this point about the Russian Meteor of 02/15/2013.


[IMAGE: Dashcam image from Universe Today Online]
First, the words. A meteoroid is a small-ish rock that happens to be “floating” around in space. They are all over the solar system; floating around like a huge swarm of gnats. Most are sand-grain to large boulder sized rocks. During a typical meteor shower, as I wrote about the December 2012 Geminids extensively, are just “clouds” of sand-grain sized pieces of dirt and ice left over from comet passes.

However, some meteoroids, like this one, are large. Not nearly as large as the asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass close to the earth later today. As I also wrote about this asteroid previously, 2012 DA14 is about 50 meters wide and ‘weighs’ in at a staggering 190,000 metric tons (tonnes)! If an asteroid this size hits the earth, it would more than ruin your day… This Russian meteoroid is estimated at 8 tonnes. Most if it burned up in the atmosphere as witnessed in the above image from Universe Today. Note the “split trail”. This indicates the meteoroid broke into at least two pieces then further disintegrated from there.

The telltale light trail left behind by a meteoroid streaking through the atmosphere is called a meteor. This is what is commonly and erroneously referred to as a “shooting” or “falling star”. These have nothing to do with stars. Nothing.

If this meteoroid survives the trip through the atmosphere and lands on the surface, it is then called a meteorite. Rest assured, there will be troops of meteor hunters scouring the Russian landscape searching for surviving meteorites.

In fact, as I type this, news just broke from RT Online that three distinct impact sites have been located! Two are in a frozen lake (images on next slides) and one in a near-by town. I quote RT: Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.”


Image : Factory RT http://rt.com/news/meteorite-crash-urals-chelyabinsk-283/ ]

The above is an amateur shot of the zinc factory downtown that media, particularly FOX, is claiming got hit by the meteorite. NOT CONFIRMED! It is more likely the building was damaged by the huge shock wave (sonic boom) from the passage of the meteor as seen in so many other videos online. YouTube is full of videos showing windows and doors and even garage doors being blown out from the sonic boom.

Meteor streak as seen from Weather satellite Meteosat 10 has taken an image of the meteorite shortly after entering the atmosphere.(Copyright 2013 © EUMETSAT)

So, stay tuned! This should be interesting!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Power of Sandy - Expanded Article

Following is an expanded version of an article my Fizzix kids and I wrote for WTNH's science website at WXEdge.com . It deals with the power ratings of a typical hurricane as Hurricane Sandy barrelled down upon us here in CT. The original was written Friday, 10/26/2012.

[Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons: 2003 Hurricane Isabel taken from the ISS]

Hurricanes. Just the word sends shivers down the spines of us New Englanders. We don't see that many come our way, but when they do, our homes and infrastructures, built to withstand the harsh New England winters, don't fair well. We all remember what Irene did to CT about this time last year and the bizarre Snowmageddon, that dumped a foot of snow on our still live trees and caused state-wide power outages for over a week, exactly 12 months ago this week. Well, we are in for another round this week.

An article from Weather Magazine (Yes, there is such a thing…), Emanuel, K. A., (1999): "The power of a hurricane: An example of reckless driving on the information superhighway" Weather, 54, 107-108, pinpointed a mathematical explanation of the energy generated by a moderate (CAT2) hurricane. Without boring you with the triple partial integral equations, which quite frankly we don't understand either, here is a summary of the numbers. A typical hurricane (Cat2) will produce 6 x 1014 Watts of power. That is roughly half a million “average” nuclear bombs. Yeah, that's a lot of power. That is, in fact, 200 times the power that the entire planet generates in electricity.

What makes hurricanes one of the most powerful and destructive forces in nature and just where does all that power actually come from? Aside from the obvious wind that could uproot windmills on any wind farm around, it's simple thermodynamics. Yes, there's a word that sends shivers up the spines of high school science students everywhere. You may recall from high school chemistry or physics that one kilogram (just over 2 pounds) of water requires 2.3 MILLION Joules of energy to either turn from a liquid to a gas (vaporization) or turn from a gas to a liquid (condensation). As cooler air rushes in to takes the place of the warmer air at the center of a tropical depression created over warm ocean water, water vapor in the cooler air condenses. This releases energy; 2.3 MILLION Joules per kilogram of vapor. Now, you have the typical self-fulfilling prophecy. This released energy warms the surrounding air, creating a larger more severe depression, pulling in more cooler air, condensing more water, releasing more energy, creating more heat,... You get the picture.

Once the storm is organized, which requires a few other attributes we won't get into here, as the cooler air rushes in, it is subject to the mysterious “Coriolis Effect”. This Coriolis Effect is simply the result of different points on the surface of the earth rotating at different linear speeds. Higher latitude points like CT at 42o North latitude, actually move slower than lower latitude points like the Caribbean at 14o North. CT creeps along at a pokey 339 m/s toward the east while the Caribbean zips along at 455 m/s. [This data compliments of Wolfram Project, see below.] This difference in surface speeds causes the rushing cooler air to feel a centripetal force that causes it to start moving in a circular path. Voila La! You just made a hurricane.

So in summary, the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA states the power of a typical Cat2 hurricane is over 200 times the entire electrical output of the planet earth. The majority of that power is generating from the thermodynamic effects of condensation while a smaller, yet just as impressive, portion is created by the shear kinetic energy of the winds. Indeed, a powerful creature. Try to wrap your brain around these numbers as you move your patio furniture inside before Sandy’s arrival.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The NEW Kilogram...

I'll bet you are all safe and comfy in your home relaxing in front of your HD TV watching something semi-mindless about some human who is famous for some reason that no one can actually pinpoint. Well, there is a serious situation brewing in the world of metrology. Yep, you heard right! Metrologists are embroiled in a feverish battle over the definition of the kilogram! OH NOSE!

Metrology is the study of measurements. Yes, they measure measurements. Quick synopsis: Around 1889, the French set the SI (metric) system into being. It caused great consternation and more than one brain implosion. However, it was a working system that did not rely on some obscure King's body part sizes. Below is a chart of the original definitions versus today's definitions I made a few years back to show during the Intro Physics lessons.

Note the original definitions of Kg, m, and second. Well, obviously they don't work anymore. The meter can't trust the size of the earth to be a constant since the earth is dynamic and shifts, shakes, and burps constantly. The definition of the second is just as problematic. Even the rotation of the earth on it's own axis and revolution about the sun aren't as constant as one would hope. So, the meter is now well defined from the speed of light, one of the most well-defined physical constants we have, and the second is defined as a specific number of vibrations of a cesium atom, also a well-defined constant. Cool. Constant. Well-defined and reproducible in any real laboratory.

Now, the Kilogram. It's the problem child. The evil twin. The outcast. Notice it's original definition was based on water. Not a good idea since density of water changes due to altitude and temperature and other factors. The "new" definition is the mass of a platinum/iridium cylinder in a quadruple vacuum jar in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. Yeah, that's nice. Have a standard that is locked up and no one can touch it. Nice standard.

For many years, 30 or 40, scientists have been looking for a better way to define the standard unit of mass using similar comparisons like the new meter and second; based on unchanging physical constants. Well, looks like an answer has been found.

Seems the decision guys are taking two very different methods and AVERAGING the results and defining the kilogram as that exact number. Yep, seems arbitrary. Mathematicians are fine with the procedure, but physicists don't like it one bit. According to Nature Online: "Deciding to just average these two results would be perfectly proper mathematics, but it would not be science," says Michael Hart, a physicist at the University of Manchester, UK.

The two methods? METHOD #1: Quoting from Nature: ...a 'watt balance' — a sophisticated scale — weighs the kilogram using electric and magnetic fields. The mass measurement can then be used to define the kilogram in terms of Planck's constant, a number used in quantum mechanics.
METHOD #2: Again, quoting from Nature: ...involves counting the atoms in a sphere of crystalline silicon. That result can be used to redefine the kilogram in terms of Avogadro's Number, which relates an element's atomic mass to its bulk weight.

So, the decision guys are pitting Planck V. Avogadro. Taking the two results and averaging them doesn't sound very scienc-y to me, but what do I know...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Utterly Painful Ignorance on Display on ABC News!

[NOTE: Following is an updated edited version of my original post. The original post about this incident was written in my typical venomous no-holds-barred antagonistic tactless verbiage. Since then, I have gained a scientific respect for Erica Martin and am quite confident this was an inadvertent mistake that we all make from time to time.]

Well, now. The above image is a smartphone picture taken from my own living room TV while I was choking on a hunk of Birthday pizza 09/10/2012. I thought I heard wrong; a simple slip of the tongue, so to speak... But, NOOO!!!! Erika Martin, Meteorologist for Ch8 WTNH in CT, read this graphic.

It is wrong on so many levels, I can't begin to get my panties unbunched.

So, what's wrong with the info? Let's take a cursory look

1. The name, 2012 QG42, is correct.
2. 800 Miles wide? OMG! LOL! WTH! And other choice TLAs! Where the Hell did this thing come from? The largest asteroid in our entire solar system is Ceres at a meager 950 km (590 miles) wide.
FACT: 2012 QG42 is estimated at 800 FEET across! She is off by a factor of 5,280! Could be a graphics error.

The above image, compliments Wiki, shows, left to right, Vesta, Ceres, and our moon.

3. It is coming to within "1.8x10^-5 Miles"!! Like I said earlier; OMG, LOL, WTH! Quick conversions from scientific notation, moving the decimal point 5 places to the left gets us 0.000018 miles! That's 0.09 feet! 1.1 INCHES!!! THIS 800 MILE WIDE HUNK OF ROCK IS COMING WITHIN 1 INCH OF THE EARTH! WE"RE ALL DEAD! Run, Flee!
FACT: Closest approach is 1.8 MILLION Miles. Off by a magnitude of 11. You can't tell me that an ABC affiliate can't afford a text function that does superscripts! That number should read: 1.8 x 106 miles.

4. Telescope needed. Yeah, right... According to Sky and Telescope Magazine's Tony Flanders, "Locating this asteroid won’t be easy; it requires excellent chart-reading skills and planetarium software capable of showing stars down to magnitude 14.5."
FACT: I have a 10" Orion Dobsonian. I'd never be able to see it with my meager object-finding skills. WTNH, however, stated that, "Backyard astronomers will be able to see it whiz by Thursday night." "Whiz by"? Hardly. According to Tony Flanders, it is moving one arcsecond per clock second. Only trained folks watching it for extended lengths of time will see it move...

sigh...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

HIGGS! FINALLY!


Image from Science Magazine Online
Click image to Enbiggenate

Well, it finally popped up; the elusive Higgs Boson. Just reported from CERN by two independent research teams comprised of a total of 3000 scientists and engineers! See: Science Daily and Science Magazine Online for details. The Official CERN Press Release is also cool reading.

For those of you not too terribly familiar with the importance of this find, or for my AP Kids who fell asleep in May, allow me some Fizzix Pontification. There is a model (sorta full set of theories and such that works) that explains the way matter is built, how it behaves, what it's made of, and all that particle physics stuff. It's called the Standard Model of Matter (or SM of Particle Physics if you want to sound more imposing at a party...). It's basically a large set of relationships between all those subatomic particles that make up everything we see, touch, feel, or otherwise can detect and we call matter. You can think of it as a recipe for matter and the Universe. A great place to start learning about this stuff is Berkeley Labs The Particle Adventure. A laymen's outline? Sure.


Courtesy CPEPweb.org (Contemporary Physics Ed Project)
Click image to Encloseupinate

  • All regular matter is made of only 12 Fermions (6 quarks and 6 leptons) and 4 Bosons (Force carriers). The Fermions are 3 "pairs" of each quarks and leptons. You may have heard of the quark somewhere along the line if you were paying attention in class. They make up what used to be called the Protons and Neutrons and a "zoo" of other subatomic particle. A proton is simply an AREA of space where 3 quarks, 2 "ups" and one "down" exist. The neutron is made of 3 quarks also, but 2 "downs" and one "up". The quark "pairs" are whimsically called up & down', charm & strange, and top & bottom. Leptons? Some of them are strange named things, but you have heard of the electron. It's one of the 6 leptons. Leptons are the electron, tau, and muon and their associated neutrinos (electron neutrino, tau neutrino, & the muon neutrino). [NOTE: This does not include Dark Matter! We have no frikkin' clue on what that stuff is yet...]


    CPEPweb.org
    Click image to Envestiginate

  • For all of the details included in the Standard Model to work, there HAD TO BE a reason for mass to exist. Believe it or not, even though we've known about all these particles and how they interact, we've never really had a good explanation of what actually caused a particle, and thereby a group of particles that make up an object, to have mass! Why do I have a mass of 110kg? Why is a quark more massive than an electron even though they are the same "size"? Well? WHY?

    Enter English physicist, Peter Higgs. In 1964, he, along with a few others, devised a strange sounding things called "broken symmetry of the electroweak theory". Yeah, just saying that hurts, don't it? In it, he proposed this thing, a field, an invisible force field type thing, that had to permate all of space in order for a particle to actually have mass; otherwise, there was no reason for a particle like an electron to even have mass. Without this Higgs Field, an electron could just fly around at the speed of light and have no mass and be weird like. The Standard Model (which didn't really exist like it does today...) at the time had no explanation of why mass was mass. He further proposed that the Standard Model would be fine if there were a particle that "exuded" this invisible field, called the Higgs Field", and this predicted particle was dubbed the "Higgs Particle".

    So, what does all this mean?

    By the 80's this Higgs Particle had been mathematically shown to be a boson. Boson, besides being what I've called some of my bosses in the past, is the name given to a group of particles called the "force-carrier" particles. They include photons (EM carrier like light), gluons (hold quarks, therefore nuclei, together), and the Z and W Bosons. "Boson" is named after the Indian mathematical physicist, Satyendra Nath Bose, a contemporary of Einstein. Put these two names together and you get the familiar, but very misunderstood, Bose-Einstein Condensate; a topic for a later and much longer post. Bosons obey Bose-Einstein Statistics; meaning they CAN violate the Pauli Explusion Principle and occupy the same place at the same time and even have the exact same properties as each other; the same quantum state. "Regular" particles like the leptons and the protons and neutrons made from quarks must obey Fermi–Dirac Statistics where the Pauli Exclusion Principle holds power; they cannot ever occupy the same quantum states at the same time.

    Here is a simple and great analogy from Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky, Physics Professor at University of Maryland:

    In the 1960s, Peter Higgs and a few other scientists proposed that there’s an energy field throughout the universe. This energy field is now called the “Higgs field.” The reason Higgs proposed this field is that no one yet understood why some particles have more mass than others.

    The energy field that Peter Higgs proposed would interact with particles to give them their mass. The idea is that massive particles interact strongly with the field, low-mass particles interact with the field only weakly, and massless particles don’t interact with the field at all.

    A good analogy for this is to consider things moving through water. The water represents the Higgs field. Some things (like fish) move through water very easily. These would be like low-mass particles. Other things (like me) don’t move through the water easily; so these are like high-mass particles — high-mass because they interact a lot with the water (Higgs field).

    The lightest sub-atomic particle is the electron, and the most massive is the top quark. Its mass is about 350,000 times the mass of the electron — about the mass of a tungston atom. Interestingly, the top quark is not more massive because it’s bigger. It’s actually believed to be the same (infinitesimal) size as the electron. What makes the top quark more massive than the electron is simply that it interacts more strongly with the Higgs field. Now, what you’ve been hearing about is not the Higgs field, but the Higgs boson. What’s the connection? The Higgs boson is the tiniest piece of the Higgs field, just like a single H2O molecule is the tiniest piece of water. So in our previous water analogy, the Higgs boson is to the Higgs field as a single water molecule is to a large ocean of water. Just as water is made of countless individual molecules, the Higgs field is made of countless Higgs bosons.

    CONCLUSION? So, this Higgs Field is an "invisible" energy field that permeates all of space that is caused by the presence of Higgs Bosons (the force carrier) and causes particles in it to have "heft" or mass. With it, the Standard Model is all happy and fuzzy... Yea...

  • Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Monday, April 30, 2012

    Yet Another "Earth-Like" Planet Found... Yawn....

    COOL, TOO KEWL! Earth-like planet found that MAY have been a larger hunk of rock that split up after an ugly encounter with it's star! As my Super-Hero colleague and close personal friend, The Tick, said, "Gravity is a harsh mistress..."

    See: SPACE.COM for more info...

    I'm still wrapping my head around CT Gov Malloy repealing the death penalty even though 67% of CT folks said it (repeal) was a bad thing... Sigh... Just when did our "representatives" become less than that...

    SUPERMOON Going To Kill Us All This Weekend! AAARRRGGGHHH!

    Seems there are plenty of reasons to believe that our own moon is going to [A] crash into us, or [B] cause severe tides so that Denver becomes beachfront property, or [C] get so close as to pull us off the surface of the earth and fling us all into outer space where we will all explode in a horrible frozen bloody death. Those reasons, in order, are [A] stupid people on the internet or [B] stupid people who read stupid things on the internet written by aforementioned stupid people on the internet or [C] stupid people who run blogs who report on stupid stories about stupid people who read stupid things on the internet written by aforementioned stupid people on the internet or, lastly, [D] folks who have previously claimed to have been abducted by aliens, probed in unspeakable ways, then returned to their loved ones to rattle on and on about being probed in unspeakable ways.


    Compliments SPACE.COM

    Now, as anyone who has ever paid attention to this hysteric type of thing, I can say demonstratively and succinctly that the moon is not, let me repeat, NOT going to kill us this weekend. Nor, is it going to drown, smite, set on fire, collide, send locusts or otherwise spell doom for mankind as set forth by the stupid "2012" subscribers. I much prefer to follow the Armageddon-ish view where Bruce Willis will save us from certain death from a rogue comet originating iron-core asteroid the size of Texas that no one saw till it was too late. [Soliloquy: I'm relatively confident I'd be able to scream to my neighbors, whom I hold no love for, "Look! Here comes Texas!" a few days before Micheal Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer decided the world need to see it...] Anyway, I digress... Which is not a bad thing...

    Anyway, the Moon is at Perihelion this weekend, the closest approach to the Earth in it's sorta wide elliptical orbit. So, yeah. It's larger than normal. DURING THE MONTH! The last time it was this "large: was May 2011! OMG! That was before I was born! Wait... Maybe not...

    Take a look:


    Compliments APOD.com

    So, yeah, duh.

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    OMG: Oh My Geosynchronous !

    Check out this video from APOD! It shows a line of geosynchronous satellites as the distant stars "fly" by. These satellites must remain stationary relative to the earth's surface, so have a period of 24 hrs. SO COOL!

    Geostationary satellites in the Swiss Alps from Michael Kunze on Vimeo.

    Feel free to embiggenate for better viewing!