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Friday Five: Things I Love About Space!

May 4, 2011

“Friday” Five on a Wednesday? Yea. This was originally posted by yours truly over at GeekLore on Friday, April 29, 2010. I’m going to cross post these on murfSTUFF as well. I’m just a little behind in getting up on murfSTUFF is all. So, look out for a new Friday Five this Friday on murfSTUFF and GeekLore, but for now enjoy this few days old one.

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Before I begin, I’d like to introduce myself! I’m murf, author and owner of www.murfstuff.com. I like video games, science, animation and other assorted general geekery. I often like to reflect on these things as my life waddles down its continued course, and thus is born my weekly blog series: murf’s Friday Five. Every Friday, I take something on my mind and give a list of five things (in no particular order) on that topic that are of interest to me. It could be about a game I played, a movie I watched, a topic I like, anything! So I hope you enjoy!

So welcome to the first Friday Five list which is “Things I Love About Space”! Why start with this? It’s a topic near to my heart, but also because of…. oh wait… that’s sort of a spoiler. I know! If my Friday Five contains spoilers about something I’ll post this warning notice:

Spoilers!
Spoiler Warning for: Portal 2
Spoiler Level: Low

That way you know what I’m spoiling, and how pivotal that spoiler may be. So, as I was saying, near the end of Portal 2 you encounter a personality core that is obsessed with space, which hit a strong note with me because I also love the empty void beyond our atmosphere. His incoherent ramblings of space got me thinking. So here are five things I love about space that I have learned from the likes of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Phil Plaitt and other astronomers and astrophysicists. That being said, I’m not an astronomer or even a scientist so while I relay these topics to you as I understand them being a hobbyist, I fully admit to having no expertise in the field and strongly caution that I could be, and probably am, at least partially wrong.

Black Holes

You probably imagine some sort of cosmic vortex eating away at everything, don’t you? Surprise! Black holes aren’t really like that. In fact, if our sun turned into a black hole instead of a white dwarf, the solar system would stay the same. The new black hole wouldn’t generate any additional gravity. They are not the cosmic vacuum cleaners science fiction makes them out to be. Now, getting stuck beyond the event horizon means no coming back and the strong gravitational forces will rip anything nearby to shreds, but they just don’t go around eating everything. Black holes fascinate me because they are mysteries about them that still are unsolved. Einstein’s theories of relativity work throughout the cosmos but fall apart when you reach the core of a black hole. My favorite thing about black holes? The term for dying by getting sucked into one. I suggest you check out this video of of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson describing this process.

Stars

Carl Sagan once eloquently said “We are made of star stuff.” This is true. The elements of the periodic table are forged in the hearts of stars. Our own sun is in the process of smashing hydrogen atoms together and making helium, thus generating enough energy via exothermic (releases energy) reactions to keep the sun from collapsing. Where our sun won’t make it past carbon, more massive stars will keep this process going until it hits iron, which is endothermic (takes energy). The star will collapse and explode. If the star was massive enough, this is a supernova. The then fused elements will be strewn about their cosmic neighborhood where they’ll form into new starts, planets, asteroids, etcetra. If one of those planets is lucky enough, the vast quantities of carbon made in the star can begin the process of forming the complex chemistry essential life.

Saturn & its Moons

The Solar System is home to us. From tiny little Mercury, to the distant Kuiper Belt (home of Pluto). One planet of our eight planets (yes, I agree with IAU’s demotion of Pluto) stands out like a crown jewel: Saturn, with its gorgeous rings. It has a hexagon cloud formation on one of its poles. It has a moon called Mimas that looks like the Death Star. It has Titan, the the largest moon in the solar system, and it has an atmosphere and lakes larger than Lake Superior that are filled with liquid methane. Or the moon Enceladus with its ice geysers which eject ice into space and help form the outer-most ring of Saturn. I could rant about Saturn all day. It’s not only pretty, but scientifically interesting!

The Panspermia Hypothesis

Imagine a microbe. A tiny spec of life in bacterial form. Image it being on Mars a really like time ago. Now imagine an asteroid comes along and smacks into Mars launching a massive amount of debris into the cold dead of space with that little microbe along for the ride. Yet somehow, this little microbe and a few of his siblings are alive through this endeavour. Sometime later, that rock jettisoned from Mars finds its way to an Earth that hasn’t developed life yet. The rock lands, the microbes live and then thrive. Thus life on Earth, first started on Mars. At least in scientific hypothesis. This is not a widely held idea, even by scientific standards, but how cool would it be if life as we know it started on another planet that was previously more hospitable to life then our own? I personally think life started here on Earth, but its a cool idea to toss around.

Dark Energy & Dark Matter

Edwin Hubble, namesake of the famous telescope, determined that the Universe is expanding when by all accounts it should not be. Something that we cannot detect is driving the continued acceleration of the universe. We call this ‘Dark Energy.’ What is it? We don’t know. Then there’s actually an excess of gravity that we can’t explain either. There’s more gravity than should be present by our current models of matter in the universe. This excess gravity is called ‘Dark Matter.’ What is it? We don’t know. Dark Energy & Dark Matter are interesting because we don’t know what the hell is going on. Science is readily willing to admit that. We have no clue what the hell is going on. We only that is going on. This excites me because it shows how much we still have yet to learn.

So that’s my first Friday Five (ABOUT SPACE)! I hope you enjoyed it, and please look forward to my next one, whatever it may be about.

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