Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Episode021: The Cosmic Calendar, The Dragons of Eden, and the 10 Second Cosmic Calendar Countdown!

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As the New Year draws to a close, it is only fitting that we would dive into a topic that really gives scope and perspective to our time on Earth. Carl Sagan popularized a notion that is referred to as the "Cosmic Calendar". What it does is maps all known time into a single calendar year. We are then able to see when critical events in history correspond to all known time.

For example: The Big Bang takes place at Midnight of January 1. The current time is Dec 31 at Midnight. Using this metaphor, there are 438 years per second, 1.58 million years per hour, and 37.8 million years per day (as per Wikipedia).

Anything that even remotely resembles modern earth occurs in the last 2 days of the Cosmic Calendar. Dinosaurs live and die out on Dec 30. Modern Primates including similar-anatomy humans make their first appearance on New Years Eve. In the last half hour of the year we learn how to use farming techniques to make food.

We learn to write 3 seconds before the final 10-second countdown.

Ten Seconds Left!


Nine! - The Code of Hammurabi is written.

Eight! - Widespread use of iron and steel.

Seven! - First Olympic Games.

Six! - Buddha, Classic Greece, Euclidean Geometry.

Five! - Ptolemy, Roman Empire

Four! - The Prophet Mohammad and the Mayan Empire


Two! - Columbus Sails the Ocean Blue in 1492.

One! - Modern Science, Newtonian Physics, Relativity, American Revolution, World Wars, a Man Lands on the Moon, Non-Manned Probes arrive to Mars, and pass Pluto.

Happy New Year!

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Musical Clip of the Week: The Cosmic Calendar- Buckethead

Hot on the heels of the musical clip of the week we have the actual Carl Sagan Cosmic Calendar sequence:

Or, if you're into the full episode check it out here:

And, if you can read and don't have a library nearby, check out the book here. It will make you a better person.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Episode 020: Chistmas Astronomy, Physics Christmas Carols, and the Physics of Christmas!

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In this episode we dive into some of the mythology surrounding christmas, namely the Star of Bethlehem which informed the Wisemen to go and visit the baby Jesus. As there was no distinction between stars and planets, it is highly possible that one of the planets, Jupiter or Venus, which would have been very bright in the night sky, could have been what gave the Wisemen their sign.

Beyond this, we delve into some physics christmas carols, such as Phrosty the Photon, the 12 Days of Physics, and O Physics Problem Set of Mine.

Lastly, I found some very interesting resources which describe in some detail the physics of Santa Claus and what is physically involved in his journey. This kind of keys off last week's The Physics of Star Trek, in that the "Required Reading" of the week is The Physics of Christmas. Apparently some of the facts that I found while traversing the internet have been yoinked directly from this book. I haven't read it yet but I had a really good time with the factoids, so I think I will certainly be picking it up from my local library in the near future.

For those of you listening in the USA or another Christmas celebrating country, I wish you all the best this season! I can't imagine Physics is high on your to-do list this week. Rest up and get ready for more soon!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Episode 019: 8 Moon Phases- New, Waxing, Waning, Full, First, Third, Quarter, Crescent, Gibbous, and more!

As a human being on planet earth, I think you would have had to live a very extraordinary life not to have noticed the monster white circle that graces our night sky. The moon has been a mythological pillar of many cultures, the subject of many stories, as well as being thought of as the cause of temporary insanity, depending on its phase. This is where the phrase "lunatic" comes from. Derived from the latin, "luna", meaning moon, people displaying signs of temporary insanity would be attributed to the full moon. The full moon is also the cause of humans transmogrifying into werewolves, in older folklore as well as current movie pop-culture. The phase of the moon is directly related to the pull of the ocean tide. And yet in our ever busying culture, we are usually blissfully unaware of the moon, where it is, or what phase it is in.

To begin lifting the veil, let's describe why the moon has phases. At almost any given time, the moon is being illuminated by sunlight. Since it is a sphere, only half of it can be illuminated, since there is only one light source, the sun. As onlookers from Earth, as the moon makes its round-earth traverse, we are able to see this half-illuminated and half-dark moon from many different angles. These are what are known as the phases. They are totally based on the fact that we are earthbound and in a specific position relative to the moon. Again, the moon is almost always half illuminated and half dark, the exception being an eclipse. So, this visual phase is almost entirely, in some sense, an illusion to the earthbound viewer. The moon phase is a powerful tool, because by simply looking in the sky, and identifying how the moon looks. You can tell where the moon is in relation to the earth and the sun.

Next, let's describe a few key words to get the jargon under control:

New Moon - This is when, from earth, the entire moon is in shadow.

Waning - This means to get smaller.

Waxing - This means to get larger.

Crescent - This is when the illuminated section of the moon is in the shape of a crescent. Generally, when the moon is less than half illuminated in view.

Gibbous - From the latin, meaning "hump". This is when the illuminated section of the moon is larger than half, giving a half + hump-like shape.

Quarter - NOT THE SHAPE OF THE MOON PHASE. This indicates when the moon has completed a quarters of it's journey from its New Moon position around the earth.

Moon Phases

New Moon - Only the dark half of the moon is visible to the earthbound viewer.

Waxing Crescent - The moon begins to be illuminated, creating a larger and larger (waxing) crescent shape.

First Quarter - The moon has completed a quarter of it's traverse around the Earth. Half of the moon is illuminated and half is dark to the earthbound viewer. The left half is dark.

Waxing Gibbous - The moon's illuminated visible portion continues to grow (wax) greater than half, now in the shape of a gibbous.

Full Moon - 100% of the moon is illuminated from the earthbound viewer's perspective.

Waning Gibbous - From 100% illumination, the moon begins to show some darkness, in a gibbous shape.

Third Quarter - Three quarters of the traverse around the Earth, half of the moon is dark (right) and half of the moon is illuminated.

Waning Crescent- From half, the illumination continues to dwindle, in a crescent shape, growing ever smaller.

New Moon - Returning, only the dark half of the moon is visible to the earthbound viewer.

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Quote of the Week: Peter Gabriel

Musical Clip of the Week: Brain Damage- Roger Waters, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Episode 018: 4 Coordinate Systems- Cartesian, Polar, Cylindrical, and Spherical Coordinates!

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In which your host tells you about exactly where you are! Explore 4 different coordinate systems including Cartesian, Polar, Cylindrical, and Spherical Coordinates!

Required Reading: The Methods of Coordinates

Clip of the Week: Ani Difranco- Dithering

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Episode 017: 10+ Tips to Pwn Your Final!

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The one where your host gives you inspirado for your upcoming final. 10+ Tips for pwning your final exam!

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Quote of the Week

Required Watching

Song of the Week: Me Against The World