By Patricia Daukantas
As the end-of-year holidays approach, I thought I’d revisit a few seasonal subjects that have appeared in OPN issues past.
For instance, PhysicsSongs.org (the Scatterings column, December 2005) is still up and running at Haverford College (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.). Of course, the Web site contains lyrics and songs concerning all branches of physics, not just optics, and many of the tunes have nothing to do with Christmas. Still, you may be interested in this PDF sing-along sheet featuring “Rudolph, the Bright Red Photon,” or maybe these carols, including “Phrosty the Photon” and “Speedy the Visible Light Ray.” People who remember our historical feature article on Ole Rømer in the July/August 2009 issue might especially like these lyrics:
Then one foggy physics eve, Roemer came to say,
"Speedy with your light so bright, let me time your speed tonight."
Then all the other wavelengths, said with all their energy,
Speedy the Visible Light Ray, we'll see you in the lab-'ra-tor-Y!!
Also from Scatterings, December 2006: The researcher behind SnowCrystals.com, Caltech physicist Kenneth Libbrecht, has published several more popular-level books featuring his beautiful snowflake photographs since he was featured in OPN three years ago. His Web site also discusses the physics of snowflake formation and explains how he photographs those tiny, delicate crystals. In his warm-weather day job (Pasadena, Calif., U.S.A.), Libbrecht is one of several hundred collaborators on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project.
Finally, if your December is sunny and hot rather than snowy and cold, take a look at the really hot, young stars in this Hubble Space Telescope “picture postcard,” featuring a cluster surrounded by red and green gas in the region of the Large Magellanic Cloud known as the 30 Doradus Nebula.
These blue stars, which are some 163,000 light-years from our Sun, have a surface temperature of some 50,000 K and are among the most massive stars ever found by humans. Such massive stars use up their nuclear fuel much more quickly than the Sun; as somebody wrote in the press release accompanying the photo, “These hefty stars are destined to pop off, like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas in a few million years.”
Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 – which was installed during the final NASA servicing mission this past spring – took the ultraviolet and infrared images that make up this composite portrait of 30 Doradus, and an international (U.S.A., Switzerland, Wales, Australia and Germany) team assembled the final picture.