Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yes. You've got wrinkles, too. Make sure to name them appropriately.

Everyone gets bags under their eyes and wrinkles. Take Dave for example: he's only twenty four, but give him two weeks of working 12 -15 hour days, and suddenly the bags under his eyes are as big as Chandra's twin black holes, the gray hairs around his ears start reproducing exponentially, and he's got Mariana Trench-sized wrinkles.

The word wrinkle is a funny word, especially if you look at it too long. Like this:


Or say it too many times like this:


See what I mean? If you google the word, the first thing that pops up is an ad for anti-wrinkle cream; the second is Wikipedia, which only discusses wrinkles on the skin (no disambiguation!), and the third is the Merriam-Webster dictionary which explains that the aging process is not the only definition of wrinkle: it's also a change in a customary procedure or innovation.

This morning I experienced a wrinkle. It started with this picture (which is awesome):

As I gazed at the picture I suddenly noticed, in the upper left hand corner, the word "supershell". To my great horror, I had no idea what that was. Wrinkle! 

So, you ask, what did I do? Well, I took my only possible course of action: I googled it. To my horror, once again, there was no Wikipedia article! In fact, there were no articles at all! Only research papers. Research papers are wonderful things, but please tell me how I'm supposed to learn anything from this

"H1 aperture synthesis maps of the LMC have revealed an ISM with a turbulent, fractal structure that is self-similar on scales from tens to hundreds of pc [18], likely due to the energy input of OB stars and supernova explosions. "

I kept looking. The whole process is enough to give me wrinkles.

As far as I can tell, a shell is just the outermost blanket of a star, the burning hydrogen. When a star is dying, it blows off this layer (as I explained here). This is also how stellar winds are created. Really, really, really big stars, like the blue supernovas, emit so much gas and dust that they create bubbles of hot gas-- also called stellar wind bubbles, which explode away from the star during its process of fusion reactions. Supershells are the result of a number of stars right next to each other, all exploding hot gas and dust simultaneously. Some scientists suggest that the Gum Nebula is actually a supershell.

So next time you look in a mirror and worry about getting wrinkles, just be glad that when you die you don't explode into giant clouds of gas and dust. Instead, just for posterity, you should name a wrinkle after every person that you know...

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