BAN #282: Goatsmas, Gingerbread infinity, Physicsgirl and LIGO

24 December 2020   Issue #282

[Spiral Galaxy M81 image credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona]

Apropos of nothing

Not everything needs to be themed

Merry Goatsmas!

This was from 2015 when the goats were still pretty wee. We’d only had them a few months and at the time we kept them in the barn where the horses are now. For various reasons keeping them there didn’t work out, so we built them a small shed and pen closer to our own house. The door to their shed can be mostly closed but propped open a bit for access in colder weather (and we installed heat lamps and a heated bucket for when it gets really cold) so we don’t build them straw bale shelters any more. Plus, they kept eating the straw.

We weren’t (and still aren’t) dress-your-animal-up-in-full-costumes kinda people, but we thought that elf getup would be fun on Clayton Forrester, and in our defense he does look ridiculously cute in it. But he hated it. HATED it. So we took the video and then took it off him.

We still have all four of these doofuses running around, so from Dr. Forrester, Jack Burton, Batman, and Sam — and their odd-toed ungulate cousins Tiny Elvis, Wanda, and Natasha — and Marcella and me, happy holidays. May they be as goofy as ours always wind up being.

Astro Tidbit

A brief synopsis of some interesting astronomy/science news

Remember that amazing image of M87’s accretion disk/supermassive black hole shadow released by the Event Horizon Telescope in April 2019?

Yah, I know it’s a bit late, but how’d you like to make a gingerbread version of it?

Gravitational Wave Data Analyst (and PhD student) Christine Simpson did just that — along with side snacks depicting cosmic strings, the LISA mission spacecraft, and more — and shows you how to do it yourself in this simply wonderful video.

Oh my. I love the 1950s aesthetic while she crafts sophisticated baked goods representing cutting edge astrophysics! And it combines eating and science, two of my favorite things.

The holidays always sneak up on me faster than I expect, and whatever deadlines I have consume me until suddenly it’s too late to do something fun and crafty like this. I need to set my calendar for next year. I keep threatening my wife that we’ll make a TARDIS gingerbread house (and have you seen the Star Trek ones… or Stargate, or Firefly?). But maybe the spacetime warping of an accretion disk might be doable as well.

I love that there are not only clever people in the world, but ones who make that brainpower into something real. It may be in silly or just plain fun ways, and that’s OK! It still inspires me.

Astro Tidbit

A brief synopsis of some interesting astronomy/science news

[Hey, why not a third newsletter section with a video? TBH I find myself bored on the holidays sometimes, looking for stuff to do because a lot of traditional entertainment dries up. And with <waves vaguely in 4 pi steradian directions> all this going on, it’s maybe even a tougher holiday than most. So hopefully this’ll help cheer you up a bit. And it’s related to the section above!]

I write about gravitational waves pretty often, because as a new observational field in astronomy, news comes out of it fairly often. Like, the first ever gravitational waves ever detected, or the time two neutron stars merged and blew off a bunch of waves, or when black holes of really uneven masses collided, or when LIGO released a passel of 39 new detections.

This whole field is a bit complicated and if you’ve never read anything about it, the intro can be a bit lengthy. I usually link to that first detection, where I wrote up all the stuff you need to know, but now I have something else I can point folks to: My friend Dianna Cowern, aka Physics Girl, made a great introductory video about LIGO and gravitational waves, where she goes to one of the two facilities and talks to people there. It’s really fun:

This is well worth your time to watch, since she not only goes over the basics, but does it with the infectious enthusiasm that she has in all her videos.

Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!