Yea, I know my name is Dizzy Dick, but some things I try to think about and understand, make my head spin. Like when I was in school, taking math, they said that if you divide any number by zero you get infinity. Infinity was a funny symbol that looked like a distorted 8 lying on its side. I couldn’t imagine infinity. Now that I am old, I still can’t comprehend infinity, can you?
I love astronomy, and that word (infinity) comes up quite often. I think that scientists use it when they don’t comprehend something. It is sort of a cop-out. It still makes me dizzy thinking about it.
Speaking of astronomy, there are things out there in space that really make me dizzy when I try to understand them. You know, like black holes. Of course I am not alone there. Another thing is pulsars.
I remember when I was a kid in grade school, they had a science guy come in and do a show. The auditorium was filled with all us kids, and we didn’t know what to expect. Sort of hoped he would saw a few teachers in half or show us how to be invisible. Nah, he just demonstrated science things. He put out a candle using only sound waves and other neat things that I can’t remember right now, except for one other thing he did. He put discs of different materials on a motor driven rotary shaft. These things, paper was one I can remember, would explode when a fast enough rpm was reached. Bang, there would be pieces flying everywhere. This taught us that any object, if it rotated fast enough, the centrifugal force will exceed the forces that hold the object together and it will suddenly come apart – BANG.
OK, I learned my grade school science lesson well. That is why pulsars are so hard for me to understand. You see, I have a real simple mind that runs on simple, straight forward rules. Pulsars blow my mind and in turn make me dizzy.
In case you don’t know what a pulsar is, let me give you a brief explanation. A pulsar is an extremely fast spinning neutron star that has such an extremely high magnetic field that it sends out highly energetic beams. As these beams go past earth, it appears as if the neutron star pulses, thus the term “pulsar”.
Ok, you ask, what is a neutron star? A neutron star is formed when a large star collapses and goes supernova. A neutron star can be about 12 miles in diameter and have a mass of almost a half million Earths. Nothing is more compact, except for black holes.
Now, back to the pulsar, as it collapses, it must conserve the angular momentum of the original star, so like a spinning skater pulls his/her arms in to increase the spin, the stars spin increases to fantastic speeds. The fastest one detected so far spins more than 700 spins per second. That is 42000 rpms and at 12 miles in diameter, the surface speed at its equator would be over 8 million miles per hour. My math says it would be 8,143,008 mph, check and see if I am right.
Now, what the heck holds this thing together? Now, not only that, but can you imagine something that large spinning that fast? Now my head is really spinning and like my name, I am really Dizzy.