335: Sun Did Not Rise

Most definitely inspired by watching Cosmos.

279: A Sun, or Not

The Things came into existence staring into the sun and it’s nice to return their sense of wonder towards the cosmos.

It’s still amazing to think that some of those stars we look up at aren’t really stars or suns, they’re binary star systems or whole galaxies ^_^

258: Astronomy


Mayara loves astronomy
It makes her feel small.

232: 5%

In the original version the second Thing says “yeah” but I decided that was unnecessary clutter.

They say that many creative endeavors are 5% inspiration (or 1% depending on which made up statistics you use) and 95% perspiration.

But not all percentages are made equal. Yay for honoring and celebrating those precious moments of muse-flash and yay for visualizing those moments when they’re not around! Chase that feeling ^_^

In other news for a motivated and happy new year the creator of the Things really likes Kamikaze Kitten’s blog post about motivation. Love the sensation of learning and finding new edges, love the celebration of diversity in motivation.

170: Wrong! On the Joys of Discovery, Holes and Incompleteness.

This post was inspired by a recent article in the New York Times, “A Black Hole Mystery Wrapped in a Firewall Paradox.

The article starts with “This time, they say, Einstein might really be wrong” and goes on to discuss recent calculations about blackholes that indicate that there might be a hole in our understanding of reality. Einstein might not be wrong, but something is a bit off or incomplete that becomes apparent when dealing with crazy intensity of a black hole.

“I was a yo-yo on this,” said one of the more prolific authors in the field, Leonard Susskind of Stanford. He paused and added, “I haven’t changed my mind in a few months now.”

So much for the perception that scientists are rigid thinkers, this is one of several quotes from scientists marveling in what they don’t know and how confusing it all is. I’ve never met Leonard Susskind, though I hope to carve out the time to hang out with his Theoretical Minimum course materials. The impression I get from him and other scientists is confusion yes, but also delight. There is a hole in our understanding! Things don’t add up and that gives us something to explore! Just when we thought we had it all figured out we found out there are more spaces for discovery.

I should add, most of physics is still ok. Newtonian physics aren’t a complete picture, but it’s very handy for dealing with most of the stuff that happens on earth. “Wrong” these days in physics seems to mean, amazingly close, but we keep discovering even weirder stuff so we have to keep looking, rather than “Oh no! Heavy objects do fall faster than light objects!” kind of wrongness.

165: Antimatter Corrections!

You know when you discover something insanely cool and you get so caught up in the dream of it that you kind of apply it to all matter in the universe, rather than just apply it to rather extreme and unstable conditions? I guess I’m very human centered and went oh it exists? It seemed natural that it should exist in my body! Seeing one thing and applying it to everything seems to be a common human trait (see my hammer, it is cool I can hit everything). I guess this is why scientists are often fairly cautious folks and why science fiction writers often get it wrong, even when they put in a whole lot of homework!

Caught up in the coolness of a fact was kind of what happened to me as I was studying particle physics! I mean, maybe the Things are amazing enough to contain anti-particles inside their frames, but maybe not. Anyhow, anti-particles and particles do hang out together in these crazy, intense relationships, BUT my new impression is that these are intense gamma radiation inducing relationships that don’t last so long.

I’m really glad folks corrected me, because otherwise my understanding of stuff would have been skewed for who knows how long and yours too! It’s really nice being able to have physics conversations with people who know so much.

164: Antimatter

Matter is made out of fermions*. Fermions are made up of quarks and leptons. Atoms are mostly made out of quarks. Quarks live in pairs or triplets, no quark has been found alone or in quartets and above (or as my roller derby brain insists, quad-tet). Lone quarks are theoretically impossible because of quantum chromodynamics. Color is important to quarks… I have no idea what that means or how it relates to normal human colors. Then stuff gets weird!

Quarks in pairs are called mesons (and while they’re made out of fermions they’re categorized as bosons because they’re involved in force, not matter, although they are forces that are essential for matter to exist forces are essential, but mesons aren’t part of day to day atomic life. See the comments for more info!). One particle in a meson is a quark, the other particle is an ANTI-QUARK! The meson can still have a positive charge if the quark has a stronger charge than the anti-quark. Forces bind the quark and anti-quark together and then other forces keep them separated so they don’t annihilate each other. To get the charge of the meson particle you simply add the positive and negative charges together.

Quarks in triplets are called baryons. Baryons are wot we are made of. When someone says baryonic matter, that’s a fancy way of saying matter that exists somewhere on the periodic table. Baryons can be made of quarks and/or anti-quarks! I’ll repeat that in case you didn’t hear QUARKS and/or ANTI-QUARKS living together! A quark’s bffs for life can be anti-quarks, anti-quarks!

All of us folks made of matter have anti-particles inside us. We have baryons to give us matter and mesons generate forces that help matter hang out with matter (I think that’s the technical term, mesons are the mediating particle of the Residual Strong Nuclear Force… last I heard it was useful for neutrons and protons to hang out and form that middle bit of an atom).

Doh! This is what happens when you learn by piecing stuff together and coming to what feels like a logical conclusion on incomplete information that feels complete because you think you’re finally getting a handle on things. Mesons are all about Residual Strong Nuclear Force, but they are not the only particles playing the nuclear force game. Mesons are rare beasts that live out in space and generate gamma radiation, something that life as we know it does not enjoy. Thanks Vandana Singh, see comments for further info.

At our most fundamental level we contain the anti to our matter. That is what allows us to exist. Opposite particles that are so tightly into each other that the force of trying to pull them apart would be so violent it would cause other particles to spoing into existence. Opposite particles that would annihilate each other if they touched.

I dunno about you, but that’s pretty amazing.

In Saturday’s comic I’ll write about awesome people who have been helping me with my research. I was going to do that today, but I got carried away by the science of it all.

* Info for this excited post mostly comes from the Particle Physics Overview, from the Astronomy department at Case Western Reserve University.

155: Things Matter

I lost my stylus and was sad that I would be unable to make an update for you. Then Jamie lent me his stylus and then all my ideas ran away. Then I had an idea, but I had returned Jamie’s stylus. Then I remembered this thing called pen and paper. The pen leaked and smudged all over the first version, but the second version I managed to protect a little bit more.

Baryonic matter is matter that is made out of atoms, if it’s on the periodic table it’s baryonic. Next time you hear someone say on a tv show, oh noes baryonic radiation! You too can giggle. Thanks Launch Pad!

154b: Spectra vs 2

My previous spectra comic bothered me a little. And while this is still not 100% accurate I feel better now that the continuous spectra comes out of both sides of the black body thing.

152: Beyond Star Stuff

We are star stuff

… we are the gravitational collapse of a molecular cloud

… we are in the filamentary structure of the cosmic webbing of the universe.

I’m at Launch Pad. An astronomy master class for writers, to help us bring more awesome SCIENCE to our work.

I’m blogging about it in greater detail over on my main website.

Day One at Launch Pad. The Universe is Big, Really Big.