Sunday, June 24, 2012

Science Sunday: Light, You Magnificent Bastard

An animated gif showing a prism dispersing visible, white
light into its color components: red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, indigo (seriously? indigo?), and violet
Well now, it sure has been a while, hasn't it?  It's about time that I got back to this, no?

Last time on Science Sunday, I discussed the Sun.  I didn't discuss it in it's entirety though, because let's face it, there's enough going on with the Sun to warrant its own blog.  In fact, it already has it's own Scientific Journal!  Nevertheless, I did a quick overview of how it stays up against the constant threat of gravity without really discussing much of any of the interior physics, and I'm going to just continue to leave that as an open question for some later date.

What I originally wanted to do today was move on toward discussing larger populations of stars beyond our own Sun and those like it (and believe me, there are many).  It seemed like the next logical step to me: start with one really well known star, and use that as a jumping-off point to talk about stars in general.  However, about one-tenth (if even THAT much) of the way through writing that post, I hit what I perceive to be a massive roadblock.  The way that astronomers categorize stars has everything to do with the light that they give off, and it's really pretty damn stupid to talk about this categorization and go onward from there without actually talking about what light IS!  It's somewhat like saying "hey, let's talk about all of the different types of cars there are, basing the types on the engines they house," with you all like "hey that's great and all, but what in the hell is an engine?"

I'm supposed to be educating here right?  Right!  So let's get on with the edumacation* regarding that most magnificently brilliant of things in the Universe: the phenomenon of light!  The most blindingly magnificent of bastards!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Interesting Quote

I happened upon this quote during my current stay in Nashville at the Parthenon. Inside the Parthenon, there's a small art exhibit in two parts: one from the personal collection of this dude who loved Tennessee from afar, and one that I suspect is a rotating exhibit.

Currently on rotation is an exhibit by a local artist Juan Pont Lezica, called Artwork Among Us, that displays classic works of art reinterpreted through modern eyes using modern models to take the places of classic figures. One model in particular had a tattoo on her back in full Greek of this quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky from his book Notes from Underground:

“You see, gentlemen, reason is an excellent thing, there’s no disputing that, but reason is nothing but reason and satisfies only the rational side of man’s nature, while will is a manifestation of the whole life, that is, of the whole human life including reason and all the impulses. And although our life, in this manifestation of it, is often worthless, yet it is life and not simply extracting square roots. Here I, for instance, quite naturally want to live, in order to satisfy all my capacities for life, and not simply my capacity for reasoning, that is, not simply one twentieth of my capacity for life. What does reason know? Reason only knows what it has succeeded in learning (some things, perhaps, it will never learn; this is a poor comfort, but why not say so frankly?) and human nature acts as a whole, with everything that is in it, consciously or unconsciously, and, even if it goes wrong, it lives."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Value of Fact Checking

I wasn't going to write another post until Sunday, but something happened today that...compelled me to write one.   There's this picture going around on Facebook today about the Tarantula nebula and its absurd brightness:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Impostor Phenomenon, Redux

In response to a previous post of mine about my own experiences with the impostor phenomenon, a friend of mine, Joji Kojima, wrote this awesomeness that follows.  I definitely think it's worth reading, and I'm still thinking about a worthy response to his wrote.  Anyway, here it is:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Words to Move You Forward

When I was studying for the Qualifying Exam, I oftentimes got down about my chances of success.  So, taking a note from some of the senior graduate students, I started seeking out and writing down words of inspiration.  While some of them are for me specifically, I figure that the majority of these might work for others as well. So, here they are:

Experiences With The Impostor Phenomenon

Within the last seven days, my life has encountered two major milestones:

- I took the longest, most intense, high-stress exam in my life thus far—the Qualifying Exam.

- Two days later, I found out the results of that exam. I passed, apparently without a bit of of debate.  I officially became Nicholas Hunt-Walker, Master of Astronomy.

I think the news of my success still has yet to fully hit me.  Honestly, I have a hard time believing that it's actually true—that I managed to pass the qualifying exam at the "doctoral" level.  The first thoughts that come to mind even now are, "how is this even possible?  Are they sure that they graded the exam correctly?  Knowing what I know about astronomy, there's no real way in which I could be viable to move forward to the next stage in my graduate career."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

You Must Balance Your Yin And Your Yang

Ever since I can first remember recognizing the yin-yang symbol, I've been interested in it.  When it was first introduced to me so very many years ago, its symbolism simply meant a balance between darkness and light, where within each there is exists a small part of the other.  No darkness without light, and vice versa.  I always had the impression that somehow, through bringing balance to one's yin and yang, one achieves internal peace, though I never quite understood why.

Well, even without any actual deeper understanding of the symbol, I've managed to doodle some version of this little guy on pretty much every notebook that I've had, as well as on homework assignments, chalkboards, whiteboards--pretty much on every surface that I can find to write on.  Deciding to have more than just a superficial association with it, I've taken some time to do bits of research here and there about it (read: looked at the same few Wikipedia articles again and again), read a bit of the Dao de Jing (didn't really understand it; need to read it again), and have looked into more of the philosophy behind the yin-yang.  Much of what follows will be personal conjecture/opinion, so if you have your own opinion, feel free to leave a comment and we can have a discussion!  Here's some of what I've gotten so far (again, Wikipedia heavy!)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

T-minus 4 Days and Counting

Roughly 3 days and 20 hours (as of this writing) until I take the most important exam of my life to date.  With that in mind, I copy something here that I wrote on Facebook this morning when the fear really hit me for the first time.  It was in response to people telling me that I'll do fine (as I'd expect from anyone who calls themselves my friend, and as such expects great things from me):
Success is the result of hard work and prep. I've done most of it. My fear is the product of feeling like I haven't done enough given the time I have left. I'm gonna get on this bus and fix that.
Well, now I'm in this chair in this office in front of this computer.  Back to work!