Super Massive Black Hole Encounter


Super massive black holes are the cement holding galaxies together. Massive is a word fitting extremely large objects – preface it with “super” and you have unimaginable size. Asking anyone to visualize something hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions or billions times larger than our sun is pointless. If a super massive pimple came up in conversation – few in the room would struggle over mental images.  Super massive black holes defy common understanding, they elude definable points of reference. Ridiculous vastness aside, black holes are considered fictional science fiction devices rather than concrete science fact.

Princeton physicist John Wheeler came up with “black hole” in 1967. Albert Einstein surmised their existence as part of his theory of relativity – simply put, when a star “dies” it collapses in on itself, resulting in a core of dense mass. Picture New York city instantly compressed onto a pin head and you have “baby steps” towards visualizing just how dense is dense. If the “remnant core” exceeds three times the star’s mass, gravity screams “oh hell no” – a black hole is born.

Galaxies cluster around the extreme gravitational pull of black holes. The Milky Way galaxy boasts a respectable super massive behemoth over four million times the mass of our sun. Indiscriminate cosmic glue, responsible for galactic rotation, orbits, and sealed fates for anything passing the “event horizon” – a  gravitational point of no return, the threshold of absorption by forces so powerful, not even light can escape.

Astronomers are buzzing over an opportunity to witness a black hole in action. In 2011 German astronomers noticed a gas cloud  oblivious to its ill fated path, speeding up as it neared the event horizon. Recent data indicates part of the cloud has begun “spagettification”, a certified sign of black hole might –  gravity elongates as it pulls towards oblivion. The main body of this cloud is expected to succumb by April.

To actually observe an object, to see how it behaves as it vanishes into mystery – how cool is that?  Ponder a moment capable of catapulting science fiction into fact.

http://earthsky.org/space/almost-snack-time-for-our-galaxys-supermassive-black-hole?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=2a1b8f0bbc-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-2a1b8f0bbc-393970565

Image via ESO/MPE/M. Schartmann/L. Calçada

Image via ESO/MPE/M.Schartmann/L.Calcada

Issus Nymph


A living creature with mechanical gears in its body might sound like science fiction; truth is, it’s science fact. Evolution defies belief at times; not in a “all God’s creatures” way, in a ” holy crap mother nature – you kick ass” way. She wakes up one morning and says “hey little hopper nymphs, your’re never going to grow up if up can’t escape these birds”. Acutely observant, ever vigilant mother nature gives these little insects mechanical gears in their legs; allowing them to arch their body like drawing an arrow on a bow, engaging gears at the top of their legs,  then launching themselves at 400 g’s – 20 times more force than the human body could stand.

Today, a group of UK scientists released their findings on the Issus Nymph in the journal Science. It seems mother nature cares but believes in tough love. Young Issus hoppers –  who primarily reside around English Ivy – are given this unique “crested wave” set of gears; a feature that stays with them through 5 or 6 moltings. When they molt for the last time – thus becoming an adult Issus – the gears disappear. Now they have to rub their back legs against rough surfaces for the friction needed to take leaps. Just like all the other hopping insects – how crazy is that?

A link to the article from Popular Mechanics…

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/the-first-gear-discovered-in-nature-15916433?click=pm_latest

Issus nymph

Issus nymph

Malcolm Burrows

Pondering Geeks


Why is it that people who speak fluent Klingon, translate time into “star dates”, grow pasty in their solitary gaming dens; coaxed out into a world of actual human contact, only when fan expos or game releases demand a physical presence – are called “geeks”? While those who delve into ancient history, gaze at the stars, or question logistics of ancient mysteries are called “wing nuts” or conspiracy theorists?

I don’t speak a word of Klingon despite growing up on Star Trek, haven’t played a video game since Pac Man ruled the pub, and gawk in astonishment as costumed devotees line up for science fiction conventions. Before any one jumps down my pondering throat – I am speaking broad generalizations. All gamers couldn’t possibly aspire to learn Klingon or dress up for Comicon. Science Fiction and fantasy thrive on imagination, role play, escape, and wonder. It just so happens that we give the name “geek” to those people who take it most seriously.

The term “geek” evokes an instant understanding, dare I say explanation for behaviour. Free from truly negative connotations; a geek is harmless, perhaps a little lacking is social graces or self esteem, and thanks to Hollywood writers – capable of saving the day. “Geeks” are free to imagine, escape, and wonder – unfettered by a society willing to look beyond first impressions. Once labelled “geek”, behaviour is overlooked or dismissed as quirky – no harm, no foul.

I’m a geek of sorts. Living in a world of imagination and wonder – the problem rears its ugly head when my inner geek is classified as “wing nut”, or worst of all alien or conspiracy theorist. I ponder ancient accomplishments with wild abandon, don’t for one second think we are alone in the universe, scratch my head; yet not once have I entertained “ancient aliens” or conspiracies. Eyes start to roll at the mention of solar flares or near earth asteroids – all seemingly lumped in with my fondness for ancient cultures fascination with the constellation Orion.

My “geek” and Klingon geek may be like talking apples and oranges. Just the same; I want a warm fuzzy name for my geeky interests. I’m a lot more vocal than Klingon speaking dungeon masters, spend more time in science than fiction, and am quite certain my analogy will be lost on many a now irate gamer. Put your swords and magic potions away, I’m making a point.

Ponder the label geek and then conspiracy theorist. The first is passive, the later aggressive. Maybe if we came up with a socially acceptable generalization for people who marvel at the ancients or gaze at the stars, I wouldn’t be so pissed off when having to explain for the hundredth time – there are marvels beyond explanation shaping our universe. Not any God, not alien intervention – simply kick ass accomplishments that make me smile – not crazy, just a pondering geek.