Friday, November 23, 2012

The Life and Death of Bright Things

Astrophysics: "the nature of stars"
The two Greek words that are used to form the English word "astrophysics" are "astro" meaning star, and "physis" meaning nature.

Hence, the meaning of "astrophysics" includes "the study of the nature of stars."

What brings it home is that this includes the nature of our Sun.

Although quite interesting in itself, the discipline or science of astrophysics studies only one small part of what can be called abiotic evolution:
Thus, the big picture of ~10.21 billion years of abiotic evolution which preceded that much smaller ~3.54 billion years of biotic evolution is often ignored or given short shrift.
(Putting A Face On Machine Mutation - 3). When we hear the word "evolution" we tend to have a mental knee-jerk reaction and think of monkeys becoming humans (possibly because we were all teens once).

Yet, human evolution is the tiniest portion of the evolutionary story (ibid).

Focusing on that small segment is like writing an autobiography about yourself, but including only the last paragraph of the last chapter in your book to explain who you are.

The nature of stars, in terms of cosmology, involves evolutionary processes that are much, much older than recent-by-comparison human evolution.

One of the fundamental tenets of astrophysics, the study of the the nature of stars, is that stars give life but then they take that life back:
Earth's fate is precarious. As a red giant, the Sun will have a maximum radius beyond the Earth's current orbit, 1 AU (1.5×1011 m), 250 times the present radius of the Sun. However, by the time it is an asymptotic giant branch star, the Sun will have lost roughly 30% of its present mass due to a stellar wind, so the orbits of the planets will move outward. If it were only for this, Earth would probably be spared, but new research suggests that Earth will be swallowed by the Sun owing to tidal interactions. Even if Earth would escape incineration in the Sun, still all its water will be boiled away and most of its atmosphere would escape into space.
(Did Abiotic Intelligence Precede Biotic Intelligence?, emphasis added). Our infantile popular science does not tell us much about that part of the story.

Rather, it repeats the story that ancient Sun worshipping religions repeated, stuck way back there like a needle in an old 78 RPM record:
All living beings on the face of earth get their life force only due the rays of sun.
(Sun Worship In Hinduism). The modern cosmological version is that carbon was produced in stars after they evolved, which then made current carbon-based life possible.

But it doesn't end there at the beginning, it ends at the end with (Sun worshippers cover your ears) "stellar death."

That is because stars have a "life cycle" or probably better put, a beginning and an end.

Our human intelligence finds this Sun-life-giver story quite interesting until we run across information that rains on our parade, then we tend to go into denial.

Typical for all things that are "bummers."

That is because we are intellectually infantile as a species, not yet cosmic adults as a species, and at this point in our evolution, it can be reasonably argued that our species may not ever become cosmic adults (What Kind of Intelligence Is A Lethal Mutation?).

We have talked about some stars, for a couple of years now, that have been challenging the stability of our astrophysics theory:
Another issue challenges our understanding as well:
"A massive star a million times brighter than our sun exploded way too early in its life, suggesting scientists don't understand stellar evolution as well as they thought."
(Star Explodes, So Might Theory, emphasis added). There is some mystery about the red giant Betelgeuse also.
(Are We Really Sure How Stars Decline?, 10/9/10). Some segments of the blogosphere have associated the giant star Betelgeuse (a.k.a. Alpha Orionis) with the Mayan 2012 myth:
If you’ve read or heard that the star Betelgeuse might explode in a few weeks or a few months – that it will temporarily add a second sun to Earth’s sky and somehow also possibly prove the world will end in 2012 (to which we can only say, “huh?”) – you might want to find more reliable sources. While it’s possible that Betelgeuse will explode in our lifetimes, it isn’t likely. Someday, Betelgeuse will become a supernova. This event is just as likely to happen thousands or millions of years from now as tomorrow.
(Betelgeuse Will Explode Someday). Older text stated that Betelgeuse would last another billion years before going supernova, but later observations indicated that the older models were not accurate in that respect.

The principle of stellar beginning and ending is still real, but the details of when they end their process and go supernova are not so solid anymore.

By comparison little is said  about our own Sun, which will follow the same pattern as Betelgeuse and other similar stars, and at some unknown time will extinguish all carbon based life on the Earth as well as any life on other planets near the Sun.

Cosmic adults would be aware of this and would be behaving in a manner contrary to our current infantile behavior, that is, as a species we would be preparing in unity.

Instead, together we are bringing about the destruction of our home world as we also fail to prepare for demise of the Sun:
Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Brainy Quotes). Something is infantile about a species when it does not gather together to protect itself, but instead destroys itself.

Since infantile behavior is sure to bring on our extinction as a species, why not morph into cosmic adults (Compromise And Settle On A Moon)?

The lyrics to the following song are here.


  1. New observations and data indicate that we don't know stars near us very well (North Star Brightens).

  2. The Sun also has some quirky behavior that surprises scientists: Link