weird things of universe

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weird things of universe

Post by mr.banker on Wed Mar 25, 2009 8:47 am


No.1 - Black holes

Have you ever really stopped to consider what black holes actually are? These arenít imaginary things made up by science
fiction writers; theyíre old stars that have cooled so much and grown so incredibly small and dense that their gravity
attracts everything around it -- including light. Where does all that stuff go? To Heaven? Maybe Pittsburgh?

"Black" hole is a bit of a misnomer, since any light that comes near them is sucked away. Technically, they should be called
"invisible" holes (which is a cooler name, anyway).

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: It has been theorized that our future sons or daughters could use a
black holeís gravitational whirlpool to slingshot off into deep space at nearly light speed -- perfect for when the Blorgzakís
Donuts on Ryjax-4 puts out a fresh batch of crullers.


No.2 - Pulsars

If you thought neutron stars were cool, youíll also love their close cousin: the pulsar. These dead stars spin around
unimaginably fast and emit massive doses of radiation in short bursts so consistent they can be used to set clocks here on
Earth.

They have a magnetic field one trillion times stronger than Earthís. That kind of strength, coupled with the speed at which
the little guy is spinning, mean that the radiation pouring off it is systematically tugged away from us at amazingly precise
intervals. Warning: Trying to think about this too hard may cause your head to explode.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: Some scientists suggest these are actually a type of galaxy-to-galaxy
Morse code device, but these people are shunned at telescope parties and gossiped about at the lab constantly.





No.3 - Neutron stars

When a star dies, it collapses inward, literally squishing its electrons and protons so tightly they fuse together to form
neutrons. Imagine something as huge as our sun being compressed down to an object just 10 miles in diameter.

The resulting neutron star is the densest known thing in the universe. How dense? One sugar cube of neutron star material
would weigh 100 million tons, and likely make your Starbucks very, very hot.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: The famous Crab Nebula contains a neutron star. This glorious chunk of
galactic eye candy is the remnant of a giant supernova that could have been seen from Earth as early as 1054, if we
werenít all just diseased, superstitious goat herders back then.





No.4 - Quasars

Not just a great Scrabble word, quasars are among the most powerful things in the universe. They are a form of massive
black holes found at the center of some of the oldest galaxies that fringe our universe.

A lot of stuff gets sucked in and squished infinitesimally small (weíre talking meteors, planets, the occasional star), and an
insane amount of energy is released. It slowly radiates out into space and, billions of years later, it gets picked up on
Earth as radio waves.

Tsk, tsk, quasars. That amount of heat loss is unconscionable in todayís reality of environmentalism.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: Things like quasars constantly bombard Earth with radio waves. That
might sound dubious until you consider that it would take eons to collect enough energy from those waves to power your
laptop for even this long





No.5 - Neutrinos

There are some pretty weird things going on deep within the fiery bellies of burning stars. The heat and pressure cause all
sorts of particles to fly around and smash into each other. Out of that stellar soup leak some of the smallest things known
to man: neutrinos. They radiate out from the sun and spread across the universe.

So, with billions of suns out there, thereís a lot of neutrinos flying around. In fact, right now countless neutrinos are
passing through your body. Donít fret -- theyíre so small they can pass through miles of lead unhindered, so your spleen
isnít in any danger.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: The crew of Star Trekís USS Enterprise found neutrinos particularly
handy, using them for everything from force fields to deep space communication. In other nerd news, we just admitted to
watching Star Trek.


No.6 - Dark matter

Scientists with a lot of time on their hands decided to take an inventory of the universe and figure out how much it
weighed. When they tallied everything up -- all the stars, the comets, our Uncle Vern -- the numbers just didnít add up.
Then stereotypically named Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky hypothesized that a bulk of space is made up of a
mysterious substance that canít be seen or measured by our current technology.

He stood, presumably looming over a lectern in front of a crowded astronomy convention, paused dramatically and deemed
this invisible stuff "dark matter."

In the years since, weíve figured out ways to actually measure the stuff and prove that old Fritzy wasnít talking out of his
black hole.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: Dark matter is out there, but itís just really hard to see -- unless you
apply the virial theorem to the Coma cluster of galaxies and see that their kinetic energy should be at least half of what it
is! Or, just take their word for it.


No.7 - Dark energy

It was only a few years ago that scientists discovered the universe was expanding at an accelerating pace -- a fact that
caught them completely off guard. Further research showed the rate of expansion has been slowing down and speeding up
throughout time. The only possible explanation was a mysterious, invisible form of energy they dubbed "dark energy."

Experts in the field try to explain it to laypeople like us as a patchy magnetic field that stretches across the universe and
slows its expansion more in some places than others. Weíre just supposed to nod knowingly and hope it wonít kill us.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: The model of an accelerating universe means the inevitable and
proverbial "end of the universe" might happen sooner than expected. Itís called the Big Freeze, a theory stating that as the
universe
keeps expanding, everything will eventually get so far apart that it
will freeze and drift off into oblivion. At least we
had a good run...




No.8 - Cosmic microwave background

The universe is huge (newsflash), and all across it scientists were finding ďradio noiseĒ that they couldnít explain. Then, one
think-outside-the-box man figured out it was radiation left over from a very big, very old explosion -- namely, the Big Bang.

Itís out there, everywhere, the clearest evidence supporting a theory that lies at the very heart of our most fundamental
questions on existence. Heavy stuff.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: Scientists used this patchwork of decaying energy to measure the
temperature of space. It turns out itís a frosty -454 F out there.


No.9 - Supernova

When stars run out of fuel, they donít just flicker off and die -- they detonate into gargantuan explosions that shed layers
of gas far off into space. That material eventually coalesces to form new stars in a billion-year, galactic-level cycle of
birth and death. Luckily, weíre left to admire their stunning beauty from a nice, safe distance.

But not for long! Our sun is a ticking time bomb biding its time until it blows and ends life as we know it in a cataclysm of
molten plasma and gas. And billions of miles away, alien astronomers will simply check it off as another supernova in a
backwater little solar system in the Milky Way.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: Members of the fledgling rock group Supernova used the citizens of
America to choose a lead singer on the reality show Rock Star: Supernova. Soon after the cameras stopped rolling,
however, the band ran into legal trouble and had to change its name. Oops.



No.10 - Nebula

Big, dirty clumps of dust, gas and plasma; that might sound like something youíd find under your bed, but in fact itís what
makes up nebulae. These light-years-wide clouds are galactic factories drifting across space while baby planets and infant
stars spin out of them in their cooling edges.

Smart dudes with really big telescopes have found all sorts of beautiful nebulae scattered across the cosmos. They come
in fun shapes like horse heads, crabs or pillars, unlike the things under your bed that come in shapes like dirty socks or
crusty tissues.

If you think thatís the weirdest thing in the universe: So-called ďdark nebulae" are the Goths of the universe -- clouds of
vapor that drift aimlessly and grow so dense in places that they block out all light behind them.
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