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.

    Sunday, June 8, 2014

    A Brief Study in Hip Hop - Profanity

    Anyone that knows me will know that I'm an avid fan of hip hop. Most of the music that I listen to is in that genre, and is pretty well restricted to the 1996-2003 era. During that time, the lyrical content of hip hop songs came under heavy fire. Parents and governmental agencies alike attacked the music and the culture for promoting violence, disrespect for authority, and particularly, profane language.  I remember those debates well, and I vividly remember not being allowed to listen to songs or certain radio stations because of their lyrical content.

    Now I'm somewhat older, questionably wiser, far more of an analyst, and am possessed with a similar level of curiosity for the world as I had when I heard my first Biggie track. I've played my favorite songs over and over again, chock full of the profanity that I missed as a kid, and I noticed that yeah, those songs are really, really not for kids.  But I could only feel that way one track at a time.  I get my 3 minutes and 30 seconds to make my judgement, then it's on to the next (on-on to the next) one.  Quantitatively, however, I don't really have a clue just how thick it is.  As such, I've decided to join two of my loves—data analysis and hip hop culture—and answer the following question: just how much vulgarity exists in the heights of hip hop?

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    An Eternity of Learning

    "Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of Nature" - Michael Faraday, father of Magnetism

    The topic of learning and changing oneself through effort and education has been coming up a lot for me lately.  As such, I decided that since I hadn't written a blog post since Black History Month (Feb), it might be a good idea for me to put these thoughts down somewhere.  Thus, here's a short little ditty about my thoughts on lifelong learning.

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    Repost: Black Americans and Afro-Latinos A Common History

    Not much to put forth for an introduction here.  This is an article examining the connection between black Americans and Afro-Latinos.  A good read, especially for Black History Month. Interesting point raised in the article: Brazil has the highest black population in the world today outside of Africa, with the United States coming in third.  Check out more here:

    A related article about Afro-Brazilians being the majority population in Brazil here:

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    Plantation Life for the Slave (Black History Month 2014)

    Slaves on a cotton plantation in the pre-Civil War south, circa early 19th Century
    After being purchased from a slave auction, an event that in its own right was a human atrocity, a given slave would be brought back to the plantation for work. While most of us have a vague idea of plantation life (the work, the subhuman living conditions, the whippings), few have actually had the details spelled out for them. I know that I haven't in a while. So, in this post we briefly explore life on a plantation. Note: I'll be irresponsibly averaging over at least two hundred years of the slave experience. All my references will, of course, be at the bottom of the page. Let's go!

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

    Black History Month 2014: American Slavery - The Early Days

    Illustration of plantation slavery
    in the Canary Islands
    We've looked at the slave ships that brought Africans to the New World, but what were they brought here for? In order to begin to answer this question, I put on my "I Can Learn Anything with Google" hat and look briefly at what necessitated American slavery. The focus here is slavery in the U.S. and the colonies that would be come the U.S., where an estimated 253,000 slaves were shipped.  Seeing as how American slavery (1619 - 1865) existed for longer than our nation has actually been a nation (246 years vs. 238 years), I'm going to do this in parts.  Let's skip back to the early 1600s to examine Slavery - The Early Days.  Spoiler Alert: native Americans get hit first, and the life of an African was very, very cheap.  

    Note: My apologies to anyone that I may offend with my smart assery and occasional silliness.  This whole topic is a pot full of painful stuff and humor is how I cope. If you're still reading, bear with me.

    Monday, February 3, 2014

    Black History Month 2014: The Anatomy of a Slave Ship

    Horizontal cross section of a slave ship.  Slaves stacked up against one another like boxes
     or cattle.  The notion of the slave as property starts here and reverberates throughout
    the history of the American negro.
    Slavery was a horrid and sad era in American history.  Even though it's an ugly and depressing thing to dwell on, appreciation for what our people have become today starts with the recognition of what got us here.  So, we start with what literally got us here: the Slave Ship.

    Saturday, February 1, 2014

    Long-Term Investing: How Much Growth is There, Really?

    This is going to be one of my shorter posts...

    I've been really interested in money lately.  Namely, how to keep it from flowing forth from my pockets, and even how to make it grow on its own.  This, along with discussions of money amongst other grad students in my department, led me to create a PowerPoint presentation (available after next month) giving a basic overview of things like budgeting, debt, and investing.