Friday, January 2, 2015

Love, Marriage, and Taxes

I started thinking about the future during this year's winter break. What will I do after I get out of grad school? How much will I make? What type of life will I be able to sustain? I got to thinking about what type of salary I'd be able to command and what that'd look like each month. Then I realized that I hadn't accurately accounted for taxes, or the effect of marriage. I looked up federal tax tables (here) and realized it'd be a royal pain in the ass to try to calculate taxes for every individual salary I wanted to test, let alone accounting for marital status and whatnot. So, instead of doing each calculation individually, I decided to fire up Python and play with lots of numbers. If you want to see the calculations yourself, my python code is here (link). Here's the results!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Astro Questions: How Much Energy is Needed to Leave the Galaxy?

This is the third and final part to this thicker-than-you-think astro question of

Will we ever be able to travel outside the Milky Way Galaxy with either a manned or unmanned vehicle/device given the lifespan of humans and the restrictions on speed given by the speed of light?

You can find parts 1 and 2 here and here (respectively) dealing with some of the difficulties of traveling at light speed, and then actually traversing the galaxy given its magnificent size. Let's now think and talk about just how much energy we'd actually need.   

3. Blah blah, what's all this about infinite energy? How much energy would we actually need?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Price of Pie

I woke up this morning after having a dream that my future kids (no doubt a little more brown than above) opened up a stand where they sold apple pies. They would set up the stand on a busy street corner, sell the pie in slices for some amount per slice, be wildly successful, and they'd get all their spending money off of that business. When I woke up, I found myself wondering if that was actually doable. Or rather, how much would it cost to sell an apple pie?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Astro Questions: Leaving our Galaxy

So this post is a continuation of the last major astro question:

Will we ever be able to travel outside the Milky Way Galaxy with either a manned or unmanned vehicle/device given the lifespan of humans and the restrictions on speed given by the speed of light?

I addressed the first part of the question, about the difficulties of traveling at light speed. Now, I want to start with the assumption that we can already reach light speed, and talk about just how damn large our Milky Way galaxy is. So, let's begin:

2. Traveling at light speed, would we be able to travel outside the Milky Way with either manned or unmanned spacecraft?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Astro Questions: Difficulties with Light Speed

This academic quarter, I did something a little different than I normally do. In addition to simply assigning and grading labs as was required, I made an assignment of my own that my students were responsible for each week. They had the option of:

• Finding an article about astronomy and writing a page about it

• Finding an astronomical concept they found interesting and write a page about that

• Submit a question about physics or astronomy which I would answer and return to them.
    I figured most students would just take the easy route and submit questions, which could be of any length, and many did. However, the questions asked weren't simple! Or perhaps the students thought they were simple going in, but it ended up being quite the opposite when answered. I got a kick out of answering these questions each week so much so that I decided to collect some of the most interesting questions I've been asked and answer them* again right here.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    Science Sunday: Bright Truths about Black Holes

    Black holes are one of those mysteries of science that sci-fi writers like to toy with. They're menacing! They huge! They have some mysterious cosmic sucking power! I want to clear the air here about these magnificent, mysterious objects. Note, this isn't going to be a comprehensive or exhaustive explanation about black holes. Just a little bit more information to clear a lot of the unknown.

    Saturday, September 13, 2014

    Science Sunday: Drop That Stellar Beat – The Kappa Mechanism

    One of the most fascinating things to me in our Universe is the fact that stars, these ridiculously massive, hot, bright objects that provide the necessary energy for existence as we know it, are not at all static objects. We see our own Sun in the sky, and we really only see one small bright yellow disc. Look a little closer (never look directly at the Sun!), and you see its surface changing every 11 years. Sunspots grow and disappear, prominences arc wildly over its surface, flares spew out light, energy, and a cornucopia of charged particles into space, etc. And ours is just a run-of-the-mill Main Sequence star! What I want to talk about here is something that exhibits the dynamic side of evolved versions of stars like ours: stellar pulsation.