Tuesday, February 27, 2007

So this is how it ends.

4.5 billion years ago a miracle of creation and science took place in this big ol' universe of ours when violent bursts of radiation or shockwaves from a nearby supernova, or exploding star, caused a gravitational collapse within a giant molecular space cloud and caused the cloud to break into smaller chunks. Some of these resultant pieces began to heat up and form protostars, forming a dense core where hydrogen, helium and other heavier trace elements fuse in a chemical reaction that generates staggering amounts of light and energy for billions of years.

A star is born.

Our Sun

Hydrogen is the fuel that keeps the Sun burning and is steadily converted into helium through nuclear fusion, carrying energy away from the core through a combination of radiation and convective processes keeping the star stable and preventing it collapsing in on itself. At present there's a mix of around 75% hydrogen to 25% helium and a good balance of gravitational forces so there's plenty of life left in the old girl. Each second, more than 4 million tonnes of matter are converted into energy within the Sun's core.

In 3.5 billion years from now the hydrogen will be running out and the temperature will have risen by around 10%. The end will begin for our Sun. By this point mankind will have had to have left the Earth as the temperature here will be around the 2000C mark. 2 billion years later the hydrogen will have been exhausted and the Sun will start to burn helium instead. At around 10,000 times its current brightness and 80 times its current diameter (swallowing her nearest neighbour, tiny Mercury) her surface temperature will be in the region of 3,500C and she will no longer burn white but red as she becomes a Red Giant.

Betelgeuse star - a red supergiant nearing the end of it's life

Thankfully the Sun's gravitational pull will diminish the larger she becomes so Earth, and indeed Venus, will survive the massive expansion by being pushed into higher orbits. Despite this narrow escape from annihilation the Earth will be dead, her oceans having boiled away to nothing and the atmosphere will have been blown away by solar winds. Life on Earth will no longer exist. In any form.

In 6.5 billion years the Sun will begin to break up and
expulsions of gases will signal her transition into a planetary nebulae. Now surface 'winds' will reach 6 million km/h and free floating clouds will be formed by gas breaking free.

The crab-nebulae - remnants of a supernova

Eventually, when all energy has been used and the Sun has burnt away her surface to leave only a dimly glowing core, the Sun will shrink to about the same size as Earth and become a white dwarf.

An artists impression of a White Dwarf

Millions of years later the fuel will be all but exhausted. Because she is no longer generating the necessary energy to keep the gravitational pull in balance she will become denser and smaller until roughly a millionth of her present size. She will gradually cool, her energy will wane and she will eventually emit no light. The Sun has become a black dwarf.

The Sun is now dead.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Quote of the day

Me: "Pancake-day today guys - Shrove Tuesday."
Cleve: "Is it? It was Monday last year wasn't it?"

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Yesterdays top stories...

Here are my favourite of yesterday's headlines from the BBC website.

Chinese man to hang for ant scam
A Chinese company chairman has been sentenced to death for running a scam involving giant ants.
Wang Zhendong promised investors returns of up to 60% if they put money into the fictitious ant-breeding project, the court heard.

Karaoke marathon as South Korean woman sings for 60 hours
A South Korean woman has set an unofficial world karaoke record after singing nearly 1,000 songs in just under 60 hours, reports say.
Kim Seok-ok dropped to the floor after her marathon effort, which she said she undertook to cheer up her sick husband.

Milli Vanilli film 'in pipeline'
Notorious pop duo Milli Vanilli are to be the focus of a film about their fall from grace, reports say.Universal Pictures is developing the film about the pair who were stripped of a Grammy award after it emerged they had never sung on their records.
The duo lip-synched on hits including 1989 single Girl You Know It's True.

And finally?...
Is sex on a plane illegal?
An A-list actor is accused of having a mile-high fling, and a private plane company plans to launch chartered flights for romantic liaisons. But what exactly is the legality of this much fabled form of sexual indulgence?

Friday, February 09, 2007

The future is getting closer

Underground 'Doomsday' seed bank unveiled.

This is very 'future' I trust you'll agree. Apparently, way off in chilly old Spitsbergen (one of the four islands that make up Svalbard in Norway) those canny boffins are about to go all 'doomsdaysurvivalofthespecieswemustsurvivelookoutforthatgiantasteroid' on us and dig their way 120 metres (364ft) deep into the side of mountain. Once there they'll build a very hi-tech and doubtless pristinely minimalist seed bank, the design of which was unveiled today.

It's within this 'Ark' that they'll bung seeds of all known varieties of food crops to safe-guard against a global catastrophe such as an asteroid strike of nuclear war. Brilliant. I can only hope that there will soon be an animal bank closely followed by a human storage facility where terabyte after terabyte of coded DNA are stored and sealed deep within the mountain. Presided over by inteligent but benign robot 'custodians', the DNA will ride out any disaster that befalls our planet waiting for the day when a program will activate and the DNA will be fired up and life will kick start into... Hang on. Getting a bit carried away with the Sci-Fi there. Still, it's a great story isn't it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Some more incontravertibel truths...

I love flying but I hate air travel. It's so cramped and ungainly.
I'll eat pretty much anything. (Within reason.)
Despite what my brother says, I am not a 'Big fat hen'.
I'm on a mission to read everything by John Wyndham and I'm nearly there.
This is the first year since age 12 I've not read Douglas Adam's Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy or George Orwell's 1984
One of my highest pleasures is picking and eating blackberries straight from the bush.
I have a tendency to do a little involuntary, wiggly dance in my chair when I'm eating nice food.
I have been known to eat a whole bag of Wine Gums before breakfast and can easily drink three mugs of tea in half an hour.
I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate except where digestives & Hob-Nobs are concerned.
People probably think I'm an atheist but I'm actually agnostic (and that DOESN'T mean I'm a fence-sitter).
I do a funny, tappy-finger thing on the bar when I'm ordering drinks or I count them off on my fingers when getting a round in.
I can be mesmerisingly lazy when necessary.
I think reality TV shows are mindless, ignorant and dangerous shite. However...
I was coerced into watching the X-Factor final and actually quite enjoyed it.
I wish I had been born on Skaro, then I would be a Dalek.
I can't stop listening to the new Amy Winehouse album.
I don't understand what people get out of reading 'HEAT' or similar magazines.
I don't sleep too well and can sometimes be found pacing the flat at 3:30 a.m.
I like a drink.
I'm no stranger to the pie counter.
I'm engaged to be married.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I am an old fart

I'd rather have a cup of tea than a beer
I don't like loud music
I like a pub where you can sit down and hear what you're pub-partner is saying
I couldn't name anything in the Top Ten
Or the Top Twenty
Or Top Fifty come to that
I watch AND ENJOY 'Midsommer Murders'
I listen to music 'with a proper tune'.
I only dance when it's absolutely necessary (or when I'm very pished)
I'm not sure I agree with 'odd' flavoured crisps (I'll stick to the classics thank you)
I hold on to my pen until it's run dry, if I lose it or someone nicks it (Beth) I get upset
I drink ale not lager
I would rather go to the cinema than a night-club
I would rather go to the theatre than a night-club
I would rather go to bed than a night-club
I have special 'cozy' trousers I change in to when I get home from work
I can remember the theme tune to the old kids TV show 'The Adventure Game' but not what Beth told me to remember yesterday
My conversations tend to start with, "You know old so-and-so, you know... thingie..."
I think Russel Brand is a fashion victim and looks like a girl
I have a special painty stick that I use for stirring paint (it's an old wooden spoon)
I have shops and brands that "I will never be caught dead in"
I use the word 'daresay'
I have spare lightbulbs in my cupboard
I sometimes fart when I lift something heavy
I want some driving gloves
And a driving hat like my Granddad had
I want a shed...
On an allotment