Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Heroic Stars


"The heroic stars spending themselves,
Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle,
They must burn out at length like used candles;
And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking home her heroes.
There is the stuff for an epic poem--
This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost battle--
We don't know enough, we'll never know.
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the Gods for granted.
-Robinson Jeffers, The Epic Stars



"Beautiful Fatalism" is a phrase from Ernest Hemingway used to describe warriors "who stayed loyal to a doomed cause."

Astronomer Pamela Gay on the Heat Death of the Universe:
Over time the stars will run out of the ability to burn stuff. The planet Earth actually has the same problem at a certain level. Someday, we’re going to run out of fuel. The Universe is someday also going to run out of reasonably accessible fuel.

Stars start burning by having hydrogen fuse in their core; then having helium fuse next. You can’t start off with a lump of carbon and get it burning, at least not easily. Eventually, we will have burned up all the nebulas. We will have burned up all the dust clouds. Everything that could easily be turned into a star and burned up is going to be burned up.

What’s left over is going to be in the form of white dwarfs. Is going to be in the form of if you take a red dwarf star it just sort of burns out and turns into charcoal. It’s going to be left over in the form of neutron stars and black holes. We’re going to have a bunch of stellar embers. In about a hundred trillion years there won’t be any stars that are actively burning the fusion processes things into higher elements.

Then you have a Universe filled with black holes, neutron stars and black dwarfs, right? And planets I guess whatever there was left orbiting all of this dead material.
We’re looking at a Universe where someday in the future, basically everything sits as close to absolute zero as atoms can get. Imagine the entire Universe basically becoming a Bose-Einstein condensate...it's energy death.

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