“Hey Steve, what’s that picture right at the top and how come it’s so awesome?”
Well Mr. Fictional, that’s a cropped version of a picture I found on the internets of a dwarf nova. It’s near something called M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. I think it’s awesome because it reminds me about all the amazing and genuinely huge things going on out there that I will never experience directly myself.
Dwarf Nebulae are, apparently, to do with the accretion disks of binary star systems which have a white dwarf in. I don’t know much about that particular bit, but I like white dwarves because they’re what happens when physics runs amok. These things are there because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which most people* think has no relevance to objects bigger than a grain of rice.
Basically; as the star contracts under it’s own gravity, the electrons inside it get pressed closer and closer together. This means that – since electrons repel each other – the space they occupy gets smaller and smaller… so the uncertainty within which they exist decreases. See where this is heading? That means that their momentum had to have a higher and higher uncertainty. Eventually a critical point is reached where the average pressure from the momentum of the electrons is enough to balance the force of gravity. So you get a kinda small star which is mentally massive that doesn’t collapse because its electrons are kinda unsociable.
Course it’s more complicated than that but if you want to read more about it, try Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You. It’s awesome and easy to understand!
Anyway, here’s the source of the image. I can’t claim to understand what the post means but it’s still cool.
* people who are my age and have been well educated enough to have heard of – and possibly even understand! – this kind of thing.