Saturday, January 31, 2009

Great Britain, UK and England

I always assumed that Great Britain, United Kingdom, British Isles and England were just different references to the same country. You guessed it–it’s a bit more complicated.

Great Britain is an island consisting of three autonomous regions including England, Scotland and Wales. It is located east of Ireland and northwest of France. The capital and largest city of Great Britain is London. The monarchy of Great Britain is limited to ceremonial functions only and sovereignty rests with Parliament.

The United Kingdom is a country that includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its official name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are often mistaken as countries, but they are only a part of the United Kingdom.

England is the largest and most populous portion of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is bounded by Wales, the Irish Sea, Scotland, the English Channel, the Strait of Dover and the North Sea.

The British Isles encompasses Great Britain, the island of Ireland, the Isle of Man and several other smaller islands.

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of countries that were formerly British colonies. Members recognize the UK Monarchy as their own king or queen, but remain politically independent.

Members of the Commonwealth of Nations:

Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Canada, Cameroon, Cyprus, Dominica, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra, Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Zambia

I’m not sure, but now I may be more confused.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Emancipation Proclamation

While I was researching the Magna Carta, it made me think about the Emancipation Proclamation and of course, I couldn't remember what it was. Gee, with as much as I don’t know, it’s hard to imagine I know anything at all.

President Abraham Lincoln was pressured by abolitionists and radical Republicans to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which he approved of in principle and drafted on July 13, 1862, but postponed action until he believed he had wider support from Americans. President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the midst of the Civil War, announcing on September 22, 1862, that if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, all slaves in the rebellious states would be free.

The Emancipation Proclamation was formally issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 as the nation approached its third year of the Civil War. The proclamation states, “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward, shall be free.” It was, however, limited only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal Border States. It also exempted parts of the Confederacy that already were under Northern control and the freedom it promised the slaves depended on the Union military victory.

Slaves were not immediately freed, but it fundamentally transformed the character of the war. The advancements of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Black men were accepted into the Union Arm and Navy and so the liberated became the liberators. By war’s end, nearly 200,000 black soldiers had fought for the nation, and their freedom.

Here is an excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation indicating which states were in rebellion:

“…designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard,
Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.”

History is so interesting. I wish I knew more of it other than just my own small existence. If I could, I'd go back to the 17-year-old me in history class and say, "hey, pay attention stupid–you don't end up with that boy anyway."

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Magna Carta

I was watching a show on the History Channel and Magna Carta was mentioned, but not explained. I have, of course, heard of Magna Carta, but realized I could not even begin to say what it actually was.

Magna Carta means ‘The Great Charter’. It is England’s Charter of Liberties. Our 5th Amendment Bill of Rights stem from the Magna Carta. The 5th amendment basically states: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property and without due process of law.

The Magna Carta was put forth in the year 1215 in response to King John’s abuses. Nobles revolted against the King, compelling him to execute the recognition of rights for both noblemen and ordinary Englishmen. It established the principle that no one, not even the king or lawmakers, is above the law.

Only three of the original clauses in Magna Carta are still law. One defends the freedom and rights of the English church. The second confirms the liberties and customs of London and other towns. The third is the most famous: No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled. Nor will we proceed with force against him except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, deny or delay right or justice.

The Magna Carta was confirmed by Edward I in 1297. Eventually, colonist brought the Magna Carta with them to the New World. Our Constitution was essentially based on the need for the Magna Carta. The new Americans understood the importance of the document to the freedoms of all people, thanks to the courage of Noblemen from the 12th century.

Here is a link if you would like to read the entire Magna Carta:

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bill of Rights

These are the amendments to the constitution. The first 10 are commonly known as the Bill of Rights. I think everyone knows without hesitation what the 1st amendment is. The rest, for me, get a bit fuzzy after, well, 2. I was very surprised to find out there were 27 amendments, the last being ratified in 1992.

Several delegates to the convention refused to sign the newly drafted constitution because it did not include a bill of rights, forcing government to recognize the rights of citizens. We are sure glad they did.

Amendment 1 – Freedom of religion and press.
Amendment 2 – Right to bear arms.
Amendment 3 – Quartering of soldiers.
Amendment 4 – Search and seizure.
Amendment 5 – Trial and punishment, compensation for takings.
Amendment 6 – Right to speedy trial, confrontation of witnesses.
Amendment 7 – Trial by jury in civil cases.
Amendment 8 – Cruel and unusual punishment.
Amendment 9 – Construction of constitution.
Amendment 10 – Powers of the states and people.
Amendment 11 – Judicial limits.
Amendment 12 – Choosing the president, vice president.
Amendment 13 – Slavery abolished.
Amendment 14 – Citizenship rights.
Amendment 15 – Race no bar to vote.
Amendment 16 – Status of income tax clarified.
Amendment 17 – Senators elected by popular vote.
Amendment 18 – Liquor abolished.
Amendment 19 – Women’s suffrage.
Amendment 20 – Presidential, congressional terms.
Amendment 21 – Amendment 18 repealed.
Amendment 22 – Presidential term limits.
Amendment 23 – Presidential vote for District of Columbia.
Amendment 24 – Poll tax barred.
Amendment 25 – Presidential disability and succession.
Amendment 26 – Voting age set to 18 years.
Amendment 27 – Limiting congressional pay increases.

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I was watching the History Channel a few nights ago and the topic was, well, not so uplifting–Armageddon. But the history of the Earth and all of the changes it has gone through in it's existence is just astonishing and interesting and all of the little-known facts I love learning about. The one tidbit of information that really surprised me was about the dinosaurs. Not just the dinosaurs as a whole, but each species.

Dinosaurs populated the Earth starting 250 million years ago to 65 million years ago before they went extinct. 185 million years they were the superior force on our planet. That is hard to imagine considering how short of a time humans have been around (that will have to be another topic.) When we think of the era of dinosaurs, we picture the T-Rex, Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, etc. all roaming and reigning the entire 185 million years. I was very surprised to find that was not the case. Each individual species of dinosaur only existed for 2–3 million years before they completely died out.

Do you know what the word Dinosaur means? It's Greek for terrible lizard.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Purple Heart

I was driving on the freeway the other day and noticed a Purple Heart license plate. I then began to wonder why it's purple. I thought maybe it had something to do with "nobility" or being of a noble act. The color purple was originally exclusive to kings, queens and emperors because it was virtually impossible to produce naturally, and therefore, extraordinarily expensive. Good theory, but wrong.

The U.S. Army regulates that the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after 5 April 1917, has been wounded or killed, or who has died after being wounded.

Which then made me curious who initiated the honorary medal. I was surprised. It was none other than our greatest President, George Washington, then Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.

Engraved on the back of the Purple Heart was this:
"Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen."

So why was it purple? George Washington believed that color resembled the look of dried blood.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Interesting Facts

Here are some general knowledge facts that were Emailed to me several months ago. I thought they were interesting–hope you do too.

Many years ago in Scotland, a new game was invented. It was ruled 'Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden'...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the U.S.Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

In the 1400's a law was set forth in England that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. Hence we have 'the rule of thumb'.

Coca-Cola was originally green.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska.

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28%.

The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%.

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven: $16,400.

The average number of people airborne over the U.S. in any given hour: 61,000.

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:
– Spades - King David
– Hearts - Charlemagne
– Clubs -Alexander, the Great
– Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Only 10 days into the New Year and we mark another main event for the Earth in its yearly orbit around the Sun. This time, it’s perigee.

Perigee is when the Moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit around us. Saturday night happens to be “the” night for this year. The moonrise will be the biggest and brightest of 2009. According to NASA, a similar situation occurred last month, making it the largest of 2008.

It takes 29.5 days for the Moon to make a full trip around Earth. And just like Earth’s orbit around the Sun, it’s not a perfect circle. One portion is about 31,000 miles closer (perigee) to us than the farthest part (apogee), so the Moon’s apparent size in the sky changes. It will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than some other full moons in 2009. At moonrise, the Moon appears even larger than it does later in the night when it’s higher in the sky. This illusion, scientists can’t fully explain but think it may have something to do with our perception of things on the horizon compared to stuff overhead.

Earth’s oceans are pulled by the gravity of the Moon and the Sun, so the tides are higher when the Moon is closer, also called perigean tides.

Because of all of the mechanics of the Moon’s orbit, it never truly is 100 percent full. For that to happen, the Sun, Earth and Moon would have to be in a perfect line, and when that rare circumstance occurs, there is a total eclipse of the Moon. That makes my brain hurt trying to make sense of it–to be 100 percent full, yet it ends up a total eclipse. Ouch.

An interesting bit of information about our Moon: it’s moving away from the Earth at 1.6 inches per year. Eventually this drift will force the moon to take 47 days to orbit the Earth.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ice Age

When we think about the “Ice Age,” we think of it as one single occurrence. But I was surprised to find out that was not the case. Where was I in Earth History class?

During the last 1 billion years of Earth’s history, the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, we have had many glacial advances and retreats. They are concentrated into four time intervals, not randomly distributed throughout Earth’s history like one might think.

Large, important glaciations occurred during the late Proterozoic (between 800 and 600 million years ago), the Pennsylvanian and Permian (between 350 and 250 million years ago) and during the late Neogene to Quaternary (the last 4 million years.) Less extensive glaciations occurred during portions of the Ordovician and Silurian (between 460 and 430 million years ago.) The last “Ice Age” ended around 15,000 years ago. Overall, however, there have been more than 60 glacial advances and retreats during the last 2 million years.

If "Ice Age" is used to refer to long, generally cool, intervals during which glaciers advance and retreat, we are still in one today. Our modern climate represents a very short, warm period between glacial advances. Scientist believe it may be climate change, but it also could be nothing more than a normal long-period climatic variation.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Milky Way

For decades, astronomers thought that Andromeda, a nearby galaxy, was larger than the Milky Way. But on Monday, new findings released from the study’s author, Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, proved otherwise.

The Milky Way is considerably larger than previously thought—15 percent larger. But more importantly, astronomers discovered it’s 50 percent denser in mass, which is like weight. Andromeda was previously thought to be the larger, dominant galaxy and the Milky Way a smaller version of it. Now they believe the two galaxies to be equal in size resulting in the gravity between the Milky Way and Andromeda to be stronger. What that may mean is that the Milky Way could be crashing violently into Andromeda sooner than predicted—still 2 to 3 billion years from now fortunately.

Reid and his colleagues measured the brightest newborn stars in the Milky Way at different times in Earth’s orbit around the Sun mapping not just their locations, but also in the third dimension of time. The speed at which the spiral-shaped Milky Way is spinning around its center was then determined. How fast is our galaxy spinning? 568,000 miles per hour–scientists previously thought it was 492,000 mph. Once the speed of the galaxy’s spin was determined, complex formulas then determined the mass of all of the dark matter in the Milky Way. The dark matter, all of the “stuff” we can’t see, is by far the heaviest stuff in the universe. The conclusion is that the Milky Way is around one-and-a-half times the mass previously calculated and accepted by astronomers.

Interesting Facts
  • There are around 100 billion stars in the Milky Way.
  • Our galaxy belongs to a cluster of at least 30 galaxies called the Local Group. 
  • The Milky Way is a younger, spiral galaxy. Older and bigger galaxies are called ellipticals and look like a giant ball. 
  • The nearest star to our Sun is the Proxima Centauri, a member of the Alpha Centauri triple star system. Light takes 4.22 years to reach us from Proxima Centauri.
  • The Earth orbits around the Sun at 60,000 miles per hour.
  • The Sun moves around the Milky Way at 140 miles per second.
Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Perihelion, Aphelion and Precession

This would have been the perfect entry for Sunday’s topic if only I had discovered it earlier. Yesterday the Earth was at Perihelion–its closest point to the Sun for the entire year. My husband asked why then it wasn’t warm. I knew the basic answer, but I did a little research to completely understand it myself and of course, the answer I found was a little more complex and utterly fascinating.

Our distance from the Sun doesn’t cause the seasons, the tilt of the Earth does. The Earth is tilted on its axis 23.5°. In January, Earth’s northern axis is tilted away from the Sun giving us cold weather. In early July, the northern axis will be tilted towards the Sun and we have warm weather.

Earth’s orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle, but an ellipse shape. If you were to draw a horizontal ellipse, basically an oval, the Sun doesn’t sit in the middle, but off center, let’s say to the right for example. If the Earth were orbiting on the path of the ellipse, when it reached the right end, it would be the closest to the Sun, or Perihelion (3 million miles closer.) And when Earth reached the left end of the ellipse, it would be the farthest from the Sun, or Aphelion (1.8 million miles further.)

Here is where this somewhat simple explanation of the Earth’s tilt and orbit becomes more complex–Precession. The Earth not only rotates on its axis, it gyrates around its axis. For example, if you were to spin a top, it stays vertical until you give it a nudge or it starts to slow down and then the top leans to the side, gyrating around the vertical as it spins. The point of the top stays on the ground but the handle swings around above it, essentially tracing a cone shape.

We know the Earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours. But do you know how long it takes to complete its precession? 26,000 years. The cause of the precession is the equatorial bulge of the Earth as a result of the centrifugal force of the Earth’s rotation. The rotation changes the Earth from a perfect sphere to a slightly flattened one, thicker across the equator. The attraction of the Moon and Sun on the bulge is the “nudge” that is making the Earth precess.

Now this information just blows my mind. Greek astronomer Hipparchus of Nicea discovered the Earth’s precession in 130 BC! He compared his observations to those from the preceding 169 years and proposed that the axis around which the heavens seemed to rotate shifted gradually, though very slowly, and he concluded it had moved by 2 degrees. How Hipparchus of Nicea managed to discover Earth’s precession in an ancient 130 BC is astonishing to me. Yesterday, I couldn’t even figure out why the dryer wouldn’t start–it was a blown fuse.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Star-Spangled Banner

We all know The Star-Spangled Banner—Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, wrote our national anthem. But do you know what event in history inspired it? I’ll admit I had no idea. I’ll even admit that up until recently, I thought Francis was a female… yeah. That’s why this girl needs to get smart, girlfriend.

The event was the War of 1812, but it
wasn’t until the turning point of the war more than two years later that Key was moved to pen the words to our national anthem.

Resentment for Britain’s interference with American international trade and
impressments of American sailors combined with American expansionist visions led Congress to declare war on Great Britain in June of 1812. The war drug on and it wasn’t until Napoleon suffered a defeat against an on-going war with France that Britain turned their focus to an ill-prepared United States. August 24, 1814 British troops entered Washington, burning the US Capitol, President’s Mansion and other public buildings while local militia fled. With Washington in ruins, Britain next planned an attack on Baltimore by land and by water.

At 6:30 AM on September 13, 1814 British naval forces, planning to enter Baltimore Harbor and take the city, began a 25-hour bombardment of Fort
McHenry. Rockets whistled through the air bursting into flames upon impact, bombshells exploded overhead raining down fiery shrapnel. Major Armistead’s men held Fort McHenry, refusing to surrender and forcing the British to pull back from their advancements. That night, British attempts at a diversionary attack failed and the next morning, the fleet withdrew. Due to a heavy rainstorm, Fort McHenry had flown its smaller storm flag during battle. When the British began to retreat, the smaller flag was replaced with a great garrison flag that could be seen for miles.

Eight miles down river aboard a British boat Francis Scott Key, who had been asked to assist in a legal matter with the release of his prisoner friend, was being detained. The British feared he would alert the fort of the impending attack after Key overheard details of the plan. Key had spent an anxious night watching the bombardment and hoping for a sign that the city—and nation—might be saved. When he saw “by the dawn’s early light” that the American flag soared above the fort, he knew that America had not surrendered. Moved by the sight, he began to compose a poem on the back of a letter he was carrying.

The poem was initially titled
The Defense of Fort McHenry and was sung to the 18th century British melody Anacreon in Heaven. Sometime in October 1814, a music store published the words and music under the title The Star-Spangled Banner. During the 19th century it became one of the nation’s best-loved patriotic songs, gaining special significance during the Civil War. Decades later, President Hoover signed into law our official national anthem March 3, 1931.

The Star-Spangled Banner Lyrics

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Meteor Showers

A girlfriend of mine informed me that this morning was to be one of the best viewings of 2009’s first meteor showers. The optimum time was at 6am and I had good intentions—sleep prevailed. But it got me wondering what exactly was a meteor shower and how do we know when they will occur.

There are three “stages” of a meteor.

Meteoroid: a small body of matter moving in the solar system.

Meteor: a small body of matter from outer space that enters Earth’s atmosphere becoming incandescent (emitting light as a result of being heated from the friction.) Also referred to as a shooting or falling star, meteors travel at thousands of miles an hour.

Meteorite: a meteor that survives the journey without burning up in the atmosphere and strikes the ground. More than 90% of meteorites are rock, the remainder consists wholly or partly of iron and nickel.

A meteor shower is an increase in the number of meteors at a particular time of year. We know when meteor showers will occur because comets orbit and we know their path schedules. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream. We have a meteor shower if Earth travels through this stream. Why comets and not asteroids? Asteroids can’t fragment like a comet to produce a shower. If an asteroid enters our atmosphere, it’s still called a meteor.

Comets and asteroids are essentially small planets and vary in size. Comets can be the size of a baseball or several miles across. Asteroids can be several hundred miles across. Comets are rock and ice, asteroids are only rock. Both are bodies left over from the formation of our solar system. Their long existences are apparent from the craters left on the surface of the moon. The moon does not have an atmosphere to protect it so it is much more vulnerable than Earth.

Meteor showers are named for the constellation, or radiant, from which they appear to fall. This morning’s meteor shower was named Quadrantids for the constellation Quadrans Muralis. Saturday and Sunday nights from 6pm–2am will be the last opportunities to potentially see the Quadrantids.

2009 Meteor Showers – Best Viewing Dates
Quadrantids – January 3 (morning)
Lyrids – April 21/22 (night)
Eta Aquarids – May 5
Perseids – August 12 (morning/evening)
Orionids – October 21 (morning)
Leonides – November 17/18 (morning)
Geminids – December 13/14 (night)

For more information, go to

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Countries in the World

How many independent countries are there in the world? I was curious about this after seeing something on the news and realized I had no idea what the answer was. My guess was 300. I was way off.

All eight of these criteria need to be met to determine independent country status:
  1. Has space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries.
  2. Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.
  3. Has economic activity and organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
  4. Has the power of social engineering, such as education.
  5. Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
  6. Has a government that provides public services and police or military power.
  7. Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country’s territory.
  8. Has external recognition and be “voted into the club” by other countries.

The actual number of countries is not absolute because the political world is constantly changing and it depends on whom you’re asking. The general answer is anywhere from 189 to 195. The US State Department recognizes 194. Most of the current
World Almanacs say 193. The United Nations has 192 members.

There are many reasons for the variations. For example, the US takes into account their political agenda, so it includes Kosovo but not Taiwan. The World Almanac excludes Kosovo. The United Nations doesn’t include Vatican City and Kosovo but does include the new nations of Montenegro and Serbia. And then there is England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. All are considered to be individual countries, but they are still part of the United Kingdom, a European country. Taiwan meets the requirements of an independent country, but due to political reasons, is not recognized by the international community. China claims that Taiwan is simply a province of China. And then there are territories and colonies like Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Greenland, Palestine and Western Sahara, which are governed by other countries. If territories and colonies were included, then the count could go as high as 266 or so.

Here is the link to the US State Department’s list of countries:

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Black Holes

Black Holes were the subject of my 7th grade science fair project. The high school science teacher who judged me was very impressed, even though I still didn't quite understand black holes myself. I can remember that presentation very well–go figure. My Dad inspired the topic as he was an avid reader of Omni Magazine and Scientific American and all of those "brainiac" publications of which were way over my head.

Black holes are the densest objects in the universe. Black holes are a region of space with a gravitational pull so powerful that not even light can escape them. Einstein's general theory of relativity defines them as mass added to a degenerate star that creates a sudden collapse and intense gravitational field of the star that will then close in on itself, forming a black hole. At the center of every galaxy there is thought to be a black hole that is one half of one percent of the size of the galaxy, thus being essential for galaxy formation. A Supermassive black hole can contain hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses. A Supermassive black hole is at the center of the Milky Way in a region called Sagittarius A. It's radius is no more than 6.25 light-hours (light travels approximately 186,282 miles per second.) Intermediate-mass black holes, Stellar-mass black holes and Micro black holes are smaller in size respectively. Black holes are still not completely understood and there are many theories, all of which are fascinating.

Now you’re a little smarter, Girlfriend — And so am I.