Motivation Monday (on Tuesday): A Week Off

Most of my motivation posts this year have been about the workout goal I set myself for the year, and for good reason.  It has kept me on track, motivating me if no one else.  After six months in the gym, I am certainly happy with how I’ve done, but for some reason I expected it to get easier with time.  If anything, it’s become more difficult, and so I did something a stubborn perfectionist like myself really hates: I took a week off. My week off meant no gym time, no careful measuring of eating habits, and a later...

Martian Water is Quick-Boil

At this stage of our understanding of the planet Mars, we have seen salty water flowing (recurring slope lineae), found evidence of ancient riverbeds, and seen seasonal changes in the polar caps.  But an important question is how does water behave on Mars? A bit of science here on Earth gives some insight. Water at sea level on Earth boils at 100 degrees Celsius, which actually defined the Celsius scale.  But as pressure changes, liquids boil at different temperatures.  As the atmosphere gets thinner, the boiling temperature of water decreases.  On Mars, with it’s extremely thin atmosphere, this means that water...

The Largest Neutron Star in Existence

Neutron stars are the most extreme objects in the universe that have been proven to exist.  Black holes are very likely, but we’re still not 100% sure about them.  A black hole is like a giant squid in the ocean.  We’re pretty sure they exist, but nobody has caught one.  The neutron star on the other hand is like a blue whale, everybody knows they exist, and they are massive, rare, and beautiful.  Of course, once we know something exists, the next logical step is to figure out how it behaves, to characterize and generalize it, and to identify where it’s...

Where does the Gold come from?

Gold doesn’t come from your local jewelry store, and the Gold rush that occurred in the Yukon territory at the turn of the 20th century is not the source I’m talking about either.  I want to take it further back, to the origins of gold the element.  Similar to the origins of most other elements on the periodic table, it requires an immense amount of energy, such as the nuclear fusion that goes on within a star.  But Gold can not be made by a star’s thermonuclear engine.  Gold requires more energy, as does every other element heavier than Iron.  So...

A Galactic Tale about a Galactic Tail

Galaxy NGC 4569 is a spiral galaxy that is part of the Virgo cluster, around 55 Million light years distant.  Like any other spiral galaxy, we can learn about its motion through the cluster, the properties of its stellar population, and how quickly its converting gas and dust to stars.  But this galaxy has an interesting property, it’s missing a lot of gas.  For years, astronomers have had ideas about where the gas has gone, and with new data from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), they now have the answer. The gas is being stripped off of the galaxy, and is now...

Motivation Monday: The Little Victories

The difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow. – William J. H. Boetcker There’s a goal you have in mind.  It’s big, it’s difficult to achieve, and if you succeed it will look good to everyone else who sees you accomplish it.  People will envy you and wonder how you did it.  they will see the huge difference it has made in your life and it will inspire them.  But there is a lot that they don’t see. I’ve talked about the grind, the adjustment, the focus and...

A Cracked Egg Moon

One of the first things you hear when learning about the states of matter is about good old H2O: Steam, Water, Ice.  Naturally you are asked “Why does Ice float?” The answer is a simple matter of density, frozen water is less dense because water expands when it freezes.  You can do a bit of an experiment by filling a balloon with water.  Paint the balloon and put it in the freezer.  When it freezes the water will expand, and so will the rubbery balloon, but the dried paint will crack at weak points. This is exactly the same thing...

Moon Phase Affects Rainfall

In voodoo, new age, astrological, aura, garbage news, the Moon’s phase affects mental health and is a general consideration for werewolves.  In real and useful science, the Moon is that occasional sight in the sky that gives us ocean tides and casually reminds us that the Earth actually has a big ball of rock falling around it.  But in a strange twist, new data suggests that the Moon actually does affect one facet of human experience: Rainfall. A new paper from the university of Washington suggests that there is a slight dip in rainfall when the Moon is overhead or underfoot, due to the tidal force exerted by...

Doing Exoplanet Chemistry From Earth

Exoplanets are light years away, hidden by their parent stars, and barely detectable.  Yet even though most have never been directly imaged, we can study the light from the parent star as the planet passes in front of it, and use this information to learn about the planet’s size and composition, especially if it has an atmosphere.  Once you know a little bit about how big and dense a planet is, and the major elements that form it’s crust and atmosphere, you can do a lot of Chemistry to figure out what it should be made of and how these...

Earth May Have 1,500 Undiscovered Minerals

Minerals are formed when geological or biological activity create unique combinations of elements. The type of mineral you get is dependent on the environment in which it forms.  For geological minerals, pressure and temperature can vary to give different combinations that are difficult to replicate in a lab.  For biological minerals, life slowly but surely undergoes processes that shift and shape minerals, usually as a waste product from obtaining energy. But with 3 billion years of life forming and reforming on our planet, springing up new diversity and losing countless species to extinction, there may be minerals that we simply haven’t...