Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of September 24, 2013

This Week's Topic: Pulsars

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

A pulsar (portmanteau of pulsating star) is a highly magnetized, rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation can only be observed when the beam of emission is pointing toward the Earth, much the way a lighthouse can only be seen when the light is pointed in the direction of an observer, and is responsible for the pulsed appearance of emission. Neutron stars are very dense, and have short, regular rotational periods. This produces a very precise interval between pulses that range from roughly milliseconds to seconds for an individual pulsar.

The precise periods of pulsars makes them useful tools. Observations of a pulsar in a binary neutron star system were used to indirectly confirm the existence of gravitational radiation. The first extrasolar planets were discovered around a pulsar, PSR B1257+12. Certain types of pulsars rival atomic clocks in their accuracy in keeping time.


The first pulsar was observed on November 28, 1967, by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish. The observed emission from the pulsar was pulses separated by 1.33 seconds, originated from the same location on the sky, and kept to sidereal time. In looking for explanations for the pulses, the short period of the pulses eliminated most astrophysical sources of radiation, such as stars, and since the pulses followed sidereal time, it could not be man-made radio frequency interference. When observations with another telescope confirmed the emission, it eliminated any sort of instrumental effects. At this point, Burnell notes of herself and Hewish that "we did not really believe that we had picked up signals from another civilization, but obviously the idea had crossed our minds and we had no proof that it was an entirely natural radio emission. It is an interesting problem—if one thinks one may have detected life elsewhere in the universe, how does one announce the results responsibly?" Even so, they nicknamed the signal LGM-1, for "little green men" (a playful name for intelligent beings of extraterrestrial origin). It was not until a second pulsating source was discovered in a different part of the sky that the "LGM hypothesis" was entirely abandoned.

Disrupted Recycled Pulsar

When two massive stars are born close together from the same cloud of gas, they can form a binary system and orbit each other from birth. If those two stars are at least a few times as massive as our sun, their lives will both end in supernova explosions. The more massive star explodes first, leaving behind a neutron star. If the explosion does not kick the second star away, the binary system survives. The neutron star can now be visible as a radio pulsar, and it slowly loses energy and spins down. Later, the second star can swell up, allowing the neutron star to suck up its matter. The matter falling onto the neutron star spins it up and reduces its magnetic field. This is called “recycling” because it returns the neutron star to a quickly-spinning state. Finally, the second star also explodes in a supernova, producing another neutron star. If this second explosion also fails to disrupt the binary, a double neutron star binary is formed. Otherwise, the spun-up neutron star is left with no companion and becomes a “disrupted recycled pulsar”, spinning between a few and 50 times per second.

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Ahhh I love astronomy. How can you not love learning about all the crazy things that are going on up there? Comets and meteorites and planets and black holes... okay, not black holes so much. Yeah, um, so back in my school days, when it seemed like they were always showing us filmstrips about terrible things happening, we watched one about black holes and I began to routinely fear that I would be sucked into one. You know, randomly, just walking along one day and then suuuuck, that would be it -- I'd get all stretched out taller than Robert Wadlow and then go floating around the universe in a state of limbo forever. Because that was what black holes did. And they must be a serious threat to us, or why else would our teacher be showing us a film about them? (It couldn't be because they just wanted to silence 27-odd brats for half an hour while they graded papers, course not.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of September 17, 2013

This Week's Topic: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an American drama web series adapted from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice where the story is conveyed in the form of vlogs. It was created by Hank Green and Bernie Su and stars Ashley Clements, Mary Kate Wiles, Laura Spencer, Julia Cho, and Daniel Vincent Gordh. It premiered on YouTube on April 9, 2012 and concluded when the 100th episode was posted on March 28, 2013.


Most episodes are two to eight minutes long and the series is presented as a video blog, told by Lizzie and (in the realm of the story) filmed and edited by her best friend Charlotte, although she occasionally takes over the editing when Charlotte is unavailable. All events are recounted and re-enacted by Lizzie, Charlotte, Jane, and Lydia within the confines of Lizzie's bedroom, making for a very different experience than previous full narratives. There are also semi-frequent questions and answers videos (about one in every ten regular episodes) in which Lizzie and other characters answer questions from their audience. Starting with episode 25, the series started moving locations and introducing new characters, such as Mr. Collins, Bing and Caroline.

In addition to the video blogs, all the characters also have various social media accounts through which they interact and reveal portions of the story and perspectives that are not necessarily represented in Lizzie's vlogs.


Fun fact: the first time I encountered this series, I stumbled upon one of the spin-off videos, "Pemberley Digital," and was left feeling so confused. Was this a real company? What was going on? WHAT WAS HAPPENING????

Word of advice: don't start with the spin-offs.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of September 3, 2013

This Week's Topic: Panera Bread

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Panera Bread is a chain of bakery–café quick casual restaurants in the United States and Canada. Its headquarters are in Sunset Hills, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and operates as Saint Louis Bread Company in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Panera considers its legacy to have begun in 1981 with the original Au Bon Pain Co., co-founded by current Panera CEO Ron Shaich. In 1993, Au Bon Pain Co. purchased the St. Louis Bread Company, which was founded by Ken Rosenthal in 1987. At the same time, the St. Louis Bread Company was renovating its 20 bakery-cafés in the St. Louis area.

In May 1999, to expand Panera Bread into a national restaurant, Au Bon Pain Co. sold its other chains, including Au Bon Pain, which is now owned by Compass Group North America. The company operates or franchises 1,500 Panera Bread bakery-cafés in 40 states and 20 facilities that deliver fresh dough to the bakery-cafés every day. Panera Bread's co-CEOs are William Moreton and Ron Shaich.

In its headquarters city of St. Louis, Panera Bread still operates under the name St. Louis Bread Company. The St. Louis metropolitan area has over 100 locations.

In 2005, Panera ranked 37th on BusinessWeek's list of "Hot Growth Companies", earning $38.6 million with a 42.9% increase in profits.

In 2007, Panera Bread purchased a majority stake in Paradise Bakery & Café, a Phoenix-based concept with over 70 locations in 10 states (predominantly in the west and southwest). The Company purchased the balance of Paradise in June 2009.

In 2008, Panera Bread expanded into Canada, beginning with Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Oakville and Mississauga in the Toronto area.

In a 2008 Health magazine study, Panera Bread was judged North America's healthiest fast casual restaurant.

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Happiness is: A bread bowl filled to the brim with hot broccoli-cheese soup, alongside an apple or a bag of kettle chips, next to a tall glass of icy soda.

Or a cold smoothie made of a blend of delicious, tangy fruits.

Or a mug of coffee that you can refill and refill and refill... until you explode.

Or a bowl of creamy, hot, cheesy pasta, the same kind you could make from a box thanks to Pastaroni, but HOT... and so good... so, so good...

Panera Bread, you're my hero!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

All's Fair...

I just love the Oregon State Fair.

You know I do.

If you happen to make it out there this weekend (it runs through Monday 9/2), be sure to visit the petting zoo and snuggle with, and or/feed, a llama, goat, sheep, deer or wallaby.


Or a baby goat.

 You can thank me later, if you don't die of Cuteness Overload first!

Also noteworthy:

Bird Show (OWLS!)
Pavilion/Toy Museum
Lego Displays (though I may be biased)
Corn On The Cob
4H Displays
Dairy Ladies' Barn (best milk & ice cream around, and shady spots to eat nearby!)

I will leave you now with this adorbs video.