Cosmic Thoughts

One of the best things about the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate is that active participants often find themselves researching various topics far outside the bounds of day-to-day life.   This can lead to not only expanded knowledge, but can provide a fresh perspective about the world around us.

Of course, some people are just in this for spaceships, explosions, and spandexed boobies.  

Oh well.

For everyone else, this page of links might be of value.  I was originally going to do a big `Layman's Guide to the Universe` kind of thing, but given how far I let myself get behind on other projects, I knew it would never get done.  This should provide enough info and links to help you craft your own.  Some of it will be general data on how things work, be it the universe or our own ways of learning about it . . . some of it will just be general points of interest in the cosmos.  A few things will be Trek-related, of course, since stuff around Earth in our world is presumably stuff around Earth in the Trek-verse . . . but really, it's just a rather haphazard list of things I found nifty.  :-)

The list will continue to grow in random amounts, and at random intervals.

Last updated:  9-26-03

I'm going to try to put this under topical headings, but of course it's all just the Universe.


The Laws List

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Big Bang, Cosmology, and the End of the Universe (in whatever form that might take)

The Big Bang
A good primer on the various facts relating to the birth of the Universe.

Beyond the Big Bang
Another primer, this one relating to the inflationary model of the Big Bang.

Pinning Down the Age of the Universe, and the Birth of Stars
With data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, the age of the Universe has now been more or less confirmed to be "only" 13.7 billion years old, +/- 200 million (.2 billion).

Universe Expanding Like a Bat Out of Hell?
Circa 6.3 billion years ago, the expansion of the universe went from a deceleration to a rapid acceleration, according to new research.  No one really understands why this would be.  Perhaps coincidentally (and either way, disturbingly), this corresponds to the point at which the stellar formation rates in 40,000 nearby galaxies began to decline (though, presumably, that should be the time-averaged result, since in about 200 million years our own galaxy is going to start preparing for a fireworks show).

  - Dark Matter and Dark Energy

coming soon

Our Neighborhood and The Milky Way

An Atlas of the Universe
The more I see of this site, the more I love it.   No offense to proper astronomers, but constellations, right ascensions, and declinations have always bothered me . . . they become increasingly meaningless the further you get from Earth (and, in the latter two cases, are pretty much meaningless as soon as you leave the surface).   

3-D Mapping of the Local Interstellar Medium
This is a fantastic site.  By determining the concentrations and temperatures of the gases (primarily hydrogen) between the stars, one gets an interesting look at the "atmosphere" of the Milky Way, and the local neighborhood.

Geminga is a nearby neutron star.  The supernova event that spawned it about 300,000 years ago is considered a likely explanation for the existence of the Local Bubble. 

A Packed House
6,000 light-years from here is a star cluster merely 5 light years across, but with thousands of new, hot stars forming within it.  Not recommended for vacations.

Earth and the Solar System

Space.Com - "Planet Puzzle..."
A very interesting article dealing with the competing theories on planet formation.  Incidentally, if the short-term concept is right, it takes care of this fellow's concerns.

Sun and Climate
There is a bit of scientific debate as to whether the truth behind the catch-phrase "global warming" is based on mankind and his greenhouse gases, or on natural solar energy output variations, or both (along with some other factors, such as volcanic eruptions).   What's really fascinating about this topic, though, is the new window it gives into the past.  Our history has been shaped as much by climate as by our own endeavors, and many of the changes of climate have been based in no small part on our variable sun.   There's the fairly well-known "Little Ice Age" (a possible contributor to the end of Viking expansion in North America) with the warmer period beforehand (a contributor to their arrival), the lesser-known but still important Spörer, Maunder, and Dalton Minima (see 1816), and the various maxima, including the one we are presently enjoying (or loathing, if you're like me and live someplace that's just too damned hot anyway).
Also interesting are the fascinating ways in which we're learning about the climate of the past, from historical records to glacier analysis to precise measurements of the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere for any given year.  

Life in the Universe

Scum of the Universe
The odds of life appearing on Earth are great . . . as we know, there's a 100% chance of life and intelligence occurring.   Once one extract's one's tongue from one's cheek, though, it gets interesting to consider just what the chances would be on other planets similar to ours . . . or dissimilar.


Exotic Space Objects

Introduction to Neutron Stars
Excellent basic information on neutron stars, presented in an amusing fashion.


Technology Research News
We're doing stuff that will blow your mind.

Nanotubes and BuckyBalls (with news)
Information on the building blocks of the wondrous new nanotechnology.

Sonic Booms Obsolete?
NASA discovered that a jet's shape could be adjusted for control of sonic booms.  They're hoping that this might allow supersonic flight over land someday . . . something disallowed now because sonic booms are so loud and potentially glass-breaking.  The boom is not eliminated, but it's rendered into more of a sonic slow-thud.

Radioactive Products are Fun
You, too, can own your own radiation source! 

Random Acts of Semi-Topical Linking

Orion's Arm
An excellent look into an imagined, but familiar, future.   Unlike Star Wars (expressly identified as fantasy) and Star Trek (where Voyager was often just a pulp fantasy-wank novel with a dragon on the cover hiding its "magick" behind technical-sounding terms), OA is an effort to make science fiction that is as grounded in modern knowledge as possible.   This means that it'll either be on the ball, or that it will seem dated and primitive in a few decades, a la TOS today.

Some fun things to look for:   Galactic maps that are all too familiar for those of us who visit Richard Powell's Atlas of the Universe, and some kind words about my site.

The Orbiter Spaceflight Simulator
This game/simulator will definitely make you appreciate those poor bastards who had to calculate all of this by hand way back in the day.

The International Astronomical Union Star Naming FAQ
This is not so much about how names are selected, but how they aren't selected.  
See, long ago, an old friend of mine told me of an old ex-boyfriend who bought her a star.  The concept, though having an extraordinary level of pimposity, appalled me . . . can you imagine the sort of names people would come up with?   (Egad, it's as bad as you think.)  Fortunately, selling stars is just fraud . . . but sweet fraud all the same.

Roman Army Information
This has nothing to do with anything.  It's just hella-cool.

"Science" From People Who Smoke Crack

Debunking the Big Bang
This was too funny not to link to.  Did you know that the Big Bang is really a violent falsehood perpetrated by the Evil American Empire™?   . . . that black holes don't exist, but are really just racially-motivated imagined entities whose primary characteristic is "Blackness"?  I guess that makes quantum singularities baaaad mother... (Shut yo mouth!).