Sunday, September 28, 2014

History of the universe

Here are some timelines to illustrate the scale of the history - past and future - of our universe.

Our universe is in its infancy. To illustrate just how long the lifespan of the universe is, I showed the four major stages that it will go through. Fittingly, each of these eras is so ridiculously longer than the period before it, by orders of magnitude upon orders of magnitude, that there is no practical way to make the earlier ones visible. (A logarithmic scale works to some extent, but even there you have to cheat.)

We are currently in what scientists call the "Stelliferous" (or star-making) Era. This is the time period where the universe will be familiar to us and life as we know it will be possible. The universe is approximately 13.798 billion years old, and if that entire time were reduced to one millimeter on the timeline, the entire Stelliferous Era would be 7.25 meters long.

The next phase will be the Degenerate Era. With no new stars being formed, the last stellar remnants will slowly decay, and then matter itself will decay. Life may exist in some form throughout part of this era, but it will become increasingly difficult, and the universe will be a dark and lonely place. If we use our same timeline (the Big Bang to present day equals one millimeter), the Degenerate Era would occupy a timeline some 72.5 billion light years across.

For reference, the diameter of the observable universe is currently about 93 billion years, so we would need most of it to make our timeline - again, only one millimeter of which has happened yet.

I'm not going to bother doing the math on the remaining two phases of the universe (the Black Hole Era in which nothing but black holes remain, and the Dark Era in which nothing but decaying particles remain), because our human brains just can't handle it. (Believe it or not, the timescale gets even more ridiculous.)

Better to concentrate on that first breath that our universe has already taken, as I have done below. While time is normally divided into geological subdivisions, I have attempted here to divide it into historical ones. where intervals of the same level (Super-Eon, Eon, Era, Period, Epoch, Division, Stage or Age) are all of roughly the same duration. Each chart shows an increasingly narrow period of time. For more details, see the complete Alien Robot Zombie Secret History of the Universe.

(Note: I am aware that some of the events referred to on the timelines above are considered "fiction." Again, see the complete Alien Robot Zombie Secret History of the Universe to see where I stand on that. Also, I trust if you're reading this blog, you're smart enough to know which is which. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lost '50s B-movies...

...that don't exist but should.

Killer Bettie

A Saucer Full of Rage

My Baby Is a Martian!

Queen of Monster Island

Race to the Moon

Doom! She Cried

Zargon Six

The Scream Out of Space

Image: The Alligator People (1959)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Live-blogging my flight

It's been several months since I last flew. Here are my observations.

Getting through security is not as unpleasant as I remember, but it takes longer than I remember.

They now let you keep small portable electronics turned on during take-off (as long as cellular service is turned off). This is incredibly helpful for me, as I get noise-induced migraines and my noise-canceling headphones are my lifeline on an airplane.

Also, I'm typing this on my cell phone.

During her pre-flight speech, the head flight attendant pronounced "placard" as "plaque-card," and "carry-on" as "carrion." She also called turbulence "rough air." Do people not know what turbulence means anymore?

Still taxiing...

The Great Lakes are stunningly beautiful. Part of me wishes the camera on this phone still worked, but the rest of me realizes that I couldn't do them justice and there's a big plane wing in the way anyway. [Not-so-mental note: find a good photo and insert it here.]

We can use laptops now. That's funny—I already responded to six emails on my phone! (Of course, the recipients still won't realize that for another two hours and twelve minutes...)

Was I saying something about lakes? Nothing but clouds above and clouds below now. Sort of a nice effect, really—two white, fluffy canvases with a little patch of daylight in-between.

And now it's completely white—no open patches save for the plane wing. And it's gotten turbulent. This time, the flight attendant said of the turbulence: "We're experiencing some weather right now."

I don't mind the turbulence, though. Give me a roller-coaster ride all day long. I just wish the engines weren't so noisy. Why is it that airplanes give me a migraine, but loud music doesn't? Must have something to do with the structure of the sound. (I do get a migraine if two TVs are playing simultaneously, for example—even if they're playing quietly.)

I am grieving the loss of the word "turbulence" from the lexicon. (And also, the fact that "weather" now apparently only means "bad weather"?)

At this time every morning I get a cup of coffee. I see that they have theirs in first class already. Grumble.

Kudos to the pilot. Not only did he use the word "turbulence," but he used a numeric infix: "We're at thirty-six fun-filled thousand feet..."

Coffee! And a gluten-free snack: peanuts!

I forgot my rule: always wear a shirt with a front pocket on a plane. That pocket comes in useful when you have limited space. Like right now: I really don't want to put my tray down, so it would be nice to have somewhere easy to put my peanuts. Oh well.

Peanuts and coffee aren't really a great mix, but I'd recommend it over weak black coffee by itself.

I just spent the past hour going over branding research. Somewhere along the way, the turbulence stopped and we now have sunny skies over the Great Plains.

I could use another cup of coffee. But I'll take the sunshine.

That's a lot of farmland.

I am impressed by the immense size and scope of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the great state of Texas and our nation as a whole.

Yee-haw! We've touched down. Cell phones—activate!!!

Crap, I got a lot of email in two hours...

Post Script—On the return flight, the flight attendant again called the severe turbulence "some weather." Sigh.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, September 8, 2014

How much does King Kong weigh?

King Kong appears to be a giant mountain gorilla. In real life, male mountain gorillas average 195 kg (430 lb) and an upright standing height of 150 cm (59 in). The 2005 movie version was said to be "25 feet" (300 in) in height. Since mass grows exponentially compared to height (because width and depth are also growing), a 25-foot mountain gorilla with the same proportions as a regular-sized one would be around 25.6 metric tonnes (28.3 short tons).

Note, however, that most fan sites list Kong's weight as being in the 6-10 ton range. (For comparison, a large T-rex may have reached up to about 8 tons.) This indicates that Kong's biology is not simply a scaled-up version of a mountain gorilla. Instead, it appears that his species has made some evolutionary adaptations as it has grown to magnificent proportions. While these differences are not readily apparent on the outside, they have given him the mobility and the edge he needs to fill an ecological niche on Skull Island.