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Archive for October, 2012

The Milky Way

HERE IS MORE from my notebook, a collection of general historical overviews and brief summaries.

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The Milky Way: a barred spiral galaxy in the Local Group (which is part of the Virgo Supercluster).

A galaxy is a massive gravitationally bound system of stars, gas and dust. The first galaxies formed during the Dark Ages from hydrogen and helium atoms due to quantum fluctuations. Galaxies can be elliptical, spiral or irregular.

The Milky Way owes its name to the Latin Via Lactea, from the Greek Galaxius (“milky circle”). The oldest star dates to 13.2 Ga (although the thin disk formed 8.8 plus or minus 1.7 Ga). The galaxy is composed of 200-400 billion stars. On average, it is 10 000 light years thick and 100 000 light years in diameter. At the centre is Sagittarius A*, probably a supermassive black hole. The galaxy rotates at about 970 000 km/h (600 mph), completing one rotation every 225-250 million years. The bar is composed primarily of red stars. There are two major interstellar arms (there were once thought to be four): the Perseus and Scutum-Centaurus Arms.

The Milky Way’s closest neighbour is the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, an irregular galaxy of an estimated one billion stars. The Milky Way’s gravitational field is pulling it apart. It has torn away a stellar stream, the Monoceros Ring, and wrapped it around our galaxy thrice. Another galaxy merging with ours is the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy. Our largest neighbour is the Andromeda Galaxy, a spiral galaxy of one trillion stars. The Andromeda Galaxy is the largest in the Local Group, although the Milky Way might be the most massive due to more dark matter. Orbiting the Milky Way are the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, irregular dwarf galaxies connected via the Magellanic Stream, a stream of neutral hydrogen gas.

The Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in about four billion years. The combined galaxies could form a giant elliptical galaxy.

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I FUCKING LOVE HALLOWEEN. Halloween is not big in Australia. It was brought to North America by the Irish and Scottish in the 19th century and never took off the same way beyond those shores. So now that I live in Montreal, Halloween has a lot of novelty for me.

I love Halloween for many reasons. First, you can be whomever you want for a day. If you dress up as Harry Potter and go to work on an ordinary day . . . Well you just can’t do that. I mean, I guess you could. Maybe you should. I have a Gryffindor tie now, so it’s a possibility. But it would be divisive. People wouldn’t understand. Some people would think it was great and some people would think it was really weird. It’s just not the done thing. Halloween allows us to do in public what we do at home when no one is looking: run around holding a stick shouting “Expecto Patronum!”

Second, is this reason:

Strumpadoodle Hermione

We live in a social world rooted in patriarchal culture, despite massive changes over the last hundred years. Thus the sexual double-standard wherein women perceived as provocative, or promiscuous, or just female, are called “sluts”, “whores”, and “strumpets”. (I added “strumpet” because I needed a third term and I quite like that word. To me it sounds like a term of endearment. It makes me think of cupcakes and strawberries. “My little strumpet.”  Strumparon. Strumpadoodle. Who wouldn’t want to be called a Strumpadoodle?) You might argue that Halloween is an instance where women are pressured to objectify themselves, and I would agree. But I prefer to look at this other positive side: Halloween is a holiday where women can dress as provocatively as they goddamn please and no-one can say jackshit.

What is someone going to tell them?

“You’re a slut!”

“No fucking shit. That’s my costume. Sexy Slutty Sex Slut. So fucking what.”

Fuck the haters. Here is what Jenna Marbles has to say about them:

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Halloween is the best holiday ever. There’s candy, there are costumes, and you don’t have to buy anyone anything. Everybody wins.

Happy Halloween.

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War Story

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I REMEMBER THE DAY. It was Z Day. When the first news broadcast came, there were already screams outside in the front yard, and I tore open my Z.E.R.O. Zombie Kit and and loaded my Belt Fed Zombie Attack AR15 with Z Max Bullets. Thank Christ I was prepared.

The first shambler to fall in my yard, shot through the chest, was Mrs. Peterson, the widow from across the road. Her husband had died of lung cancer a year before. At the funeral she had put on a brave face but her body was thin and frail now and her arm snapped beneath her as she fell. Next were the Gardeners, our neighbours. There was Mr. Gardener, and Mrs. Gardener, and little Sam, and his even smaller sister Kitty. She fell foaming at the mouth.

The neighbourhood was in chaos, but I pushed my wife Debbie and boy William into my Hyundai Elantra Coupe Zombie Zombie Survival Machine and used the spiked cow catcher to bulldoze shamblers down, clearing a path to the highway. I tried not to look at the faces for fear of recognising them. I had a goal: Vivos, where the space I had reserved in their community underground shelter waited. They had laughed, the Gardeners, at least Ned Gardener had, when I bought it. It had cost me a year’s wages. The Gardeners weren’t laughing now.

It was noon when I ran out of gas on the highway. I had been so intent on the road before me, trying not to see the carnage on either side, that I had forgotten to check the gas meter. It would be the worst mistake I ever made. I could see the gas station a hundred feet down the road, so close. Drawing my Survivor’s Shovel, I told Debbie and William to stay put, stepped out of the car and broke into a trot. The first shambler was a middle-aged woman with ginger hair and half her face missing. The blade of my Survivor’s Shovel halved what was left. The next was a solid fellow in farmer’s clothes, saliva bubbling from his lips; he fell too. And the next. Three more down and the gas station was deserted. It seemed so empty and peaceful after the hell of the suburbs that I let my guard down.

I was filling a gerrycan when I felt the bite. Teeth sinking into my left arm. The infection in my arm now. In my blood. I screamed in horror and frustration and rage and kept chopping at the thing long after it had stopped moving. It was a little boy. Not much older than William. It had bitten me. Oh God, no. William was waiting for his father in the backseat of the car, scared to death. Debbie, my wife. I had failed them

There was one thing I could do. My heart had sunk into my stomach, but I moved automatically, my jaw clenched in pain and resolve. I tore up the shambler’s shirt – better think of it as a shambler than a little boy – and I bandaged my arm. When I got back to the car I told them that I had cut myself on the Survivor’s Shovel. I think that maybe they knew. They never said a word.

I drove as far as I could toward Vivos. I tried to stop it, my teeth clenched, my knuckles white around the wheel. The fever had me. Sweat beaded my brow. My hands trembling. The hunger inside. The flesh of my wife’s clutching hand turning from the hand that I knew and loved into something else – the skin inviting and translucent, the blood pulsing underneath, the meat of the palm . . . God, I prayed. Let me make it one more mile.

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At least, that’s how I imagine it was for my father. I watched from the backseat as he hit the brakes – hunched over the wheel – shuddered. I watched as he began to eat my mother. As if from very far away, I watched as I leapt out of the car, grabbing the Survivor’s Shovel, and he chased me into the woods.

I don’t know how I did what I did in there. When I came out I was pale and shaking, spattered in blood.

The body of my mother was still, as if dead. There was a hole in her throat but the blood had stopped pouring out. I stayed with her, talking to her, begging her to wake up and be alright, until her eyes opened and her hand jerked up to grab me and I slammed the door shut in terror and ran to an empty car back up the road. The keys were still in the ignition. I drove the rest of the mile to Vivos believing that I would come back for her with help. I think I really thought it was true.

I wonder what happened to her.

The battle against the aliens who had released this plague upon us raged on the flat-screened TVs inside Vivos. In the broadcasts, their streamlined, silver craft shimmered across the skies. We hunkered down in our luxury bunker, eating caviar and lobster that tasted like ashes in our mouths. Many died in the war. Still more had their memories wiped and became soldier-slaves of the enemy. In the end there were more of them than there were of us.

It was five years after Z Day that the enemy found Vivos. The news broadcasts had stopped long before.

After our last stand, when the Allied Human Forces won the war, some of those soldier-slaves were freed. Others could not be saved, their minds trapped, and we hunted them down across the torn countryside like rabid dogs.

I was one of the pilots who helped win the war, flying experimental crafts that had been reverse-engineered from alien technology decades earlier.

On this day, the anniversary of Z Day, I remember the soldiers who laid down their lives so that we could live.

I remember the slaves who could not be saved and who were put down, lost in their own minds.

And I remember my father and how he saved my life.

Thank you.

– William

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The Big Bang

IF YOU WANT TO READ all these notebook entries, click on the “History” category to the right. This is the bare minimum, in the simplest possible language, that I decided I should know about the Big Bang. Corrections welcome.

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Big Bang: the expansion of the universe from a hot and dense initial state 13.73 Ga. The standard cosmological model is the Lambda-Cold Dark Matter Model (ΛCDM). Lambda refers to dark energy, used to explain the accelerating rate of expansion since 5Ga. The existence of dark matter is used to explain the speed of rotation of galaxies. The major elements produced were hydrogen, helium and lithium. Stars produced the heavier elements.

This giant space worm is about to eat a satellite

The observable universe is a sphere with a diameter of 93 billion light years. It is believed to be mostly composed of dark energy and matter. There are probably more than 170 billion galaxies. The universe could end in a Big Crunch, Big Freeze, or Big Rip. It will end in a Big Crunch if the mass density of the universe is greater than the critical density; otherwise, in a Big Freeze. An alternative is that dark energy will tear it apart in a Big Rip.

Here is how we know about the Big Bang. In 1912, American astronomer Vesto Slipher determined that light from other galaxies is redshifted (shifted to longer wavelengths – an example of the Doppler effect). In 1915 Einstein published his field equations for general relativity, which Belgian Catholic priest Georges Lemaître used to propose that the universe is expanding in 1927. This found empirical confirmation in 1929, when American astronomer Edwin Hubble, building on Slipher’s observations, formulated Hubble’s Law: the further away a galaxy, the faster it is receding from us. Therefore either we are at the centre of exploding galaxies or the universe is uniformly expanding everywhere. Fred Hoyle, a proponent of steady state theory who was critical of the idea that the universe had a beginning, coined the term Big Bang in 1949. The theory was confirmed with the discovery of cosmic background radiation by Americans Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson in 1964. It finds further support in the abundance of light elements and in the morphology and distribution of galaxies.

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I SCANNED THE NEWS TODAY looking for something awesome. Here is what I saw:

Italian scientists convicted over earthquake

Dodgy shit going on at the BBC regarding Jimmy Savile’s rape and sexual molestation of children

Lebanon – bomb – death – protests – bad

Mitt Romney is alive

Fuck. So much for the news. It gets worse: Reddit is down. THE FRONT PAGE OF THE INTERNET. I had this whole science post planned but ran out of time. Aaaaah.

Shit. I’m calling this one in. Watch this video:

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Casanova

I WAS CALLED A CASANOVA the other day on another blog. I thought this was awesome because I had just spent three hours talking to my cat while reading Simone de Beauvoir and I was feeling pretty pimpin. Casanova was a Venetian gambler, adventurer and womaniser who once broke out of prison. This is exactly the same as my life. Here is a typical day for me:

Nice boobies

Wake up next to my cat, Kali. Eat breakfast and read. Right now I’m reading Simone de Beauvoir’s letters to Nelson Algren and Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Galapagos. Just like the life of Casanova, these books are full of sex. Simone and Nelson were definitely banging (between the lines). There was a very steamy sex scene in Galapagos, although it was between boobies – which are birds native to the Galapagos Islands. Anyway, after breakfast, I blog (bitches love blogs), go to the gym, work, come home, hang out with Kali, and fall asleep. Night Kali.

Now this might not SEEM like a page torn from Casanova’s memoirs. But you gotta look deeper. Here are three reasons why it’s the same:

I rarely sleep alone

First, I spend a lot of time talking to my cat. The psychology of women is often compared to the psychology of cats. Kali is male but he’s still a cat. So when I’m talking to him, it’s actually a lot like I’m talking to a woman. Now, people who know me well know that I get quite nervous when talking to a girl I really like. My stomach does somersaults and I once had an occasional stutter. Which is why practice is so important. Without even trying, I’m honing the art of conversation, making myself into a dangerous, silver-tongued Lothario.

What up hoes?

Second, I read a lot. And sometimes when you read, the characters become real, like you really know them. That means that it’s like I know a LOT of women. A LOT. And I’m with them pretty much all the time, in all kinds of positions and places. Standing in the kitchen. Sitting on the sofa. Lying in bed. Everywhere. Just like the OG, C. Nova. Not just average women either. All sorts. For example, one woman I’m reading about right now is Mary Hepburn, a widow who wants to kill herself but who is going to get better on the Galapagos Islands. Another is this blind girl, Selena MacIntosh, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, who has these gorgeous green eyes and is described as totally HOT. Then there’s an older Japanese lady, Hisako Hiroguchi. I know. I go for the exotic types. So actually, my life is full of women.

The third reason is that I’m reading Simone de Beauvoir. She was a woman, and she wrote about women, making me very close to women. Now, existentialism drives women CRAZY. Stop a girl in the street and drop the words “being”, “authenticity” and “the absurd” and watch her panties hit the ground. In fact, next time I go out – which might totally be this week, unless I stay home and watch movies with my cat – I’m going to quote Simone as my opener (an “opener” is what we pick up artists call talking to a woman for the first time). Probably something from The Second Sex, maybe about Hegel.

Another thing that bitches love is Hegel. Dialectic materialism. The other. That sort of shit.

Here is something that Casanova did that I haven’t done: he was kicked out of Paris for conning a noblewoman into believing that he could turn her into a young man using alchemy.

There’s still time.

I would post more, but this life of profligate degeneracy doesn’t leave me much time to blog.

– Casanova

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In the Beginning

I WANT TO COMPLETE SOMETHING before I die. It’s a notebook that contains broad historical overviews. It’s skeletal – sparse on detail – and biased toward my interests. I wrote it for me. Since we’re soon to be space dust, I’m going to write it out here. I found it crazy that I knew so little about this world when the information is out there. How old is the Earth? What is life? How long has our species been around? With these questions in mind, I called my notebook EVERYTHING THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AT ALL TIMES.

Why at all times? I’ll answer that at the end of these posts.

Here’s the first page:

TIMELINE

Big Bang 13.73 Ga

Milky Way 13.2 Ga

Sun 4.57 Ga

Earth 4.54 Ga

Moon 4.5 Ga

Life 3.5 Ga

Man 200 ka

Space 1961

Notes for readers who are not me:

Ga means “billion years ago”.

ka means “thousand years of ago”.

13.2 refers to the oldest known star in the Milky Way.

“Man” refers to the emergence of the species Homo sapiens, not of the genus Homo.

1961 is when the first man – Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin – entered space.

Next post: the Big Bang

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