Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cat's Eye nebula

Ceiling Cat iz watching U

Fun factoid:

No field has benefited more from the computer revolution  than astronomy.
-- J. Richard Gott, The Cosmic Web (2016), p. 144

Gott’s book, handsomely produced by Princeton University Press, is at opposite poles from the usual popular “If it’s Tuesday, these must be black holes” (or even dinosaurs) breezy overview of cosmology.   He focuses on a single research interest -- the statistical distribution of stars, galaxies, supergalaxies etc. -- and gives us a lab-bench look at it (or at least, as per the above, a computer-screen view -- heavy reliance on simulations).   Despite the sexy title, “Cosmic Web”, the book is very far from “Physics porn”, since it really is about the cosmos, and the stellar distributions do indeed resemble a web -- or rather a sponge (a Sierpinski sponge, so to speak).

A view from the atrium of Sierpinski Tower

Nonetheless, he does, without fanfare  and towards the very end of the book (p. 210), finally arrive at the payoff you have all been waiting for:

The Fate of the Universe

Turns out the whole thing hangs on a little parameter dubbed w. 

W !!!!

W (artist’s rendering; not shown actual size)

This he defines as “the ratio between the pressure associated with dark energy  and the energy density of dark energy”.  

Now, given that nobody really has a clue what ‘dark energy’ may be (it is likely not reducible to any of our extant physical categories), the idea that your destiny hangs upon the ratio of two of its purported aspects  does rather bemuse.   Nevertheless, experts have been able to conclude, that one of the following three fates await you, based upon that ratio:

w > -1 :  Temperature drops as universe becomes virtually empty

w = -1 : Universe approaches a constant temperature.
Intelligent life dies out.
:-(  :-(

w < -1 :  Planets, then atoms, are torn apart.
:-(  :-(  :-(

Take your pick.
Meanwhile, shelter in place.

The pageview count on this blog has frankly been dismal of late.  In an effort to goose the stats and attract roving eyeballs, we here publish the following sensational astronomical discovery.

World of Dr JusticeTM discovers a new constellation!

The Astrophysical Squadron® of the World of Dr Justice©  (headquarters: Geneva) has announced a major new denizen of the night sky.  Already celebrated in physical circles for his discovery of the Higgs boson,  the reclusive Doctor, heading up a team of scantily-clad researchers at his mountaintop mansion, and aiming up a supersized telescope (longer than yours),  has revealed the following, slightly blurry but still impressive astral image:

The new entity has been christened
the “Aurelie Delvaux nebula”,
after the noted Belgian astronomiss

Using algorithmic filtering and in-silico techniques, the team was able to evoke, from a seemingly random distribution of bright dots, an outline that, seen from a certain angle and in a certain light, strikes some observers as vaguely resembling a human female.
(Or perhaps a camel.  Yes, very like a camel.  A Bactrian camel -- the kind with two humps.)


  1. Thank you for renewing my interest in astrology.

  2. Not *astrology*, dummy -- *gastronomy* !