My Superpowers Revealed

Ok, I can’t resist. From an earlier post:

…and of course video footage of me effortlessly squashing a star much larger than our own sun down into a tiny space should help out enormously later on with classroom control, and so forth…

Since my cover is now blown, here are some stills** (click for larger) from Tuesday’s (unexpected) episode of the History Channel’s “The Universe”*:

  making a neutron star  making a neutron star  making a neutron star

  making a neutron star  making a neutron star  making a neutron star

Take that Galactus and Dark Phoenix!


P.S. The Physics? I’m showing how a star at the end of its “normal” life when it has run out of fuel, collapses under the force of gravity. If it is large enough (but not too large), it will collapse to form something called a neutron star.

P.P.S. I’m pleased it turned out well since the executive producer/director, Douglas Cohen, originally had me do it while looking at the camera all the time. I thought it would be more natural to have me do it while looking at what I was doing (squashing stars is a delicate business you know), and so I asked him if we could try it that way, and he agreed (to his credit – shows that he’s a pretty open-minded guy to listen to an amateur). He actually liked it, and used it!

*No civilizations were annihilated during the making of this neutron star.

**I don’t know how to get video off my DVR. I imagine someone will YouTube parts of the episode one day, so you can see the full effect there, if you like.)


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6 Responses to My Superpowers Revealed

  1. Pyracantha says:

    Now you need a costume. It isn’t super without a costume. (I’m a costume designer.)

    Thanks for writing this blog. “Asymptotia” is the only physics blog these days that does not make me depressed.

  2. Pyracantha says:

    Science question not costuming: I have wondered for some time whether neutron stars emit light. Are they visible to telescopes? Or is the portrayal in this sequence symbolic and not descriptive?

  3. Clifford says:

    Hi Pyracantha,

    That is my costume! (or one of them anyway…) It’s very subtle.

    I think a perfect neutron star in an empty neighbourhood of space would not be emitting light like that. The programme-makers wanted something a bit more “sparkly-glowy” it seems, and you might excuse them a touch by saying that it was a newly formed neutron star, and so maybe at the surface there is non-neutron star material yet to leave, or that there is material at the surface present due to the neighbouring medium (gases from another source, for example). Either way, the material at the surface is excited and glowing. I’m making this up, but there could be a ton of secondary processes (it seems to me) that might work, given the high rotation, magnetic field, etc, typically associated with these objects (and the drama of the collapse that formed them). Others may be able to say more. Even if it were the case, you’d never see a neutron star from here with an optical telescope. They are far too small. The one I was talking about in the show was the size of Manhattan. On the other hand, as you know they are extraordinarily bright and readily detectable objects in other frequencies, such as the radio regime…. as pulsars – the objects that made Jocelyn Bell famous. And then there are the extraordinarily powerful cousins of pulsars called magnetars, that you might like to look up.



  4. Pingback: The Scary Universe? - Asymptotia

  5. Donna says:

    Are the Russell Stannard books about Uncle Albert adventures available in the United States? I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday and only having the name of the character Uncle Albert, they were unable to find these books. Now I have an author’s name maybe I’ll have more luck.