What’s Odd in Space These Days?

I just got my new Astronomy Magazine yesterday. I was lying in bed this morning perusing the latest odd-ball anomalies in space and came across a plethora of them in this issue henceforth I decided to write about most of them. I find these things wonderous beyond all measure. It reminds me of the wonder of the universe and how science and religion can work together despite the efforts of devout agnostics to not believe in God, and try to explain everything in scientific terms. It reminds me that you can’t. At least not in my opinion. Well this is another topic reserved for a future date and when I’m in a mood to write in this slant.

First thing in the book I saw was this thing. Called PSR J1719-1438 it’s what’s called Pulsar. For those of you not versed in universal objects it’s the left overs of a massive star. Massive stars have a finite life time just like most things in our universe. Because of their colossal size stars live out their lifetimes on mega scales compared to humans. When they die what happens to them largely depends upon their mass. Larger stars make bigger holes in the space-time fabric when they expire. Consequently their left-overs become stranger inversely proportional to their masses. For example some medium-sized stars and smaller ones like our sun die and leave behind what’s called a White Dwarf. This is a very dense semi-hot and very compact star. One teaspoon of its surface material would weigh several thousand tons!  That’s correct, because when the star collapses upon its self the distance between the electrons and the nucleus of its atoms gets squeezed together. Sort of like a cosmic trash compactor. There’s nerdy sounding physical law that goes along with this. It’s called the Conservation of Angular Momentum. I had a difficult time with this one and it just finally popped in my head the other day while I was listening to Astronomy Cast with Pamela Gay and Fraser. Pamela was talking about spin rates of pulsars. What happens is this;  When a massive star dies and goes thru its super nova event, it’s loosing a huge percentage of its mass. Because of the diameter of this star being what it used to be means that it’s rotation is not all that fast. But when you lose its main mass, this spin rate is intensified by the new diameter of the remnant that’s left over. Or in other words if the star looses most of its mass and it was big to start out with and blows off most of its diameter and mass in its super nova event, this spin momentum doesn’t just go away with the star. It’s transferred down to the new diameter of the star and because you can’t destroy energy, applies itself full force to the new star which is several times smaller in diameter. This supercharged new force spins the remnant up to in some cases 1000 revolutions per second! Think about this for minute. We have an object the size of Manhattan spinning on its axis at over 1000 revs per second! Wow! Amazing.

This is the neighborhood of the pulsars. Pulsars are even more dense than White Dwarf stars. Because of their mass they have their atoms crushed down to the point of having no electrons in the outer shells of their atoms so the matter is what’s called degenerate and consists of neutrons.  This makes the star extremely dense. It has a very extreme and severe gravitational field. It warps the dickens out of the space-time fabric it sets in. Pulsars have various spin rates depending upon the original stars size. They rotate at a very specific rate and do so for a very long time. They are cosmic time pieces as well. Their spin rates are very precise and do not vary.

There’s a handy yardstick for predicting stars futures. It’s called the Chandrasekhar limit. Named after an Indian (the country) astrophysicist. It says that above a certain limit a white dwarf star will collapse gravitationally to either a neutron star or a black hole. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrasekhar_Limit.   Black holes are even more weird than neutron stars or pulsars if you ask me. They are a bottomless gravity well. They are so intense they have ripped a hole in the space-time fabric. Their gravity is so intense that once something gets into its event horizon, sort of door mat into the black hole if you will, that it’s gone forever. Nothing can escape this, not even light. Yes this monster can grab onto the almost massless photons and swallow them forever. We don’t really understand what goes on as the black hole funnels down into what’s called a singularity. That’s an infinitely small and dense part of the black hole. Because of its nature all our mathematics, time itself breaks down. We don’t know what’s going on here, probably never will.

Well now that I’ve got your head spinning, let’s get back to the original subject lil ole PSR J1719-1438. Like I said earlier it’s a pulsar. Not just any pulsar however. This one has a companion star orbiting it in just two hours and ten minutes per revolution and has a mass just slightly more than Jupiter. It’s parent star PSR J1719-1438 has a rotational velocity of 10,000 revolutions per minute making it a millisecond pulsar. I told you these things were strange didn’t I?  Around 70 percent of these systems belong to binary star systems (as in two orbiting each other).  Sometimes these things do weird things to each other. If one of the orbitees is more massive than the other and depending upon how close they are can transfer material from one star to the other. When this happens we have that old law banging around the conservation of angular momentum. So the recipient of stellar material gets spun up faster and faster until some sort of status quo is reached within the system. Scientist think that’s what’s happened to this system. The orbiting object has been reduced to .01 percent of its original mass. The remnant probably consists largely of carbon and oxygen. Because of it’s mass, composition and pressures, the companion is certain to be a crystalline structure as in a diamond. So there’s in essence a huge diamond orbiter around this pulsar. It’s not the shinning thing you see in wedding bands but more than likely resembles a rock.  Be we won’t know because this system is a mere 4000 light years away in the constellation Serpens. Or if you want to unfold the cosmic yardstick it’s 1,227 parsecs away. A parsec is a taste over 3 light years in distance. I like parsecs. It helps me wrap my mind around the distances in the universe a little easier.

Next thing on Dave’s weird list is the black hole event called Swift J1644+57. Don’t you just love these screwball tags sticky noted onto these phenomenon?  Well this is a process of a black hole eating a star. It’s radiating energy in optical, X-ray, ultraviolet and near infrared wavelengths. This black hole is ripping the star apart. As this happens the material from the star is funneled around the event horizon of the black hole and spun up to near light speed velocities. As this happens the material heats up and emits high energy particles in various wavelengths. This material is outside the gravitational lock of the black hole. It’s funneled into a high-speed jet, that streams away from the center of the black hole at 90 degrees to the black holes rotation. Another nice little law called gyroscopic precession.  I’m not going into this one, you can look it up. It’s difficult to explain. Took me awhile to sort this one out as well. These particle jets move at relativistic velocities which puts them at very close to the speed of light. Well this jet just happened to be pointed right at our planet Earth. Because of its distance from us doesn’t pose any sort of radiation dangers. Sometimes I’m disappointed by the sheer distances to even the closest galaxies because I’d like us to go visit and realize that probably won’t happen unless we can talk the Spacing Guild from Frank Herbert’s novel Dune into folding space for us. At other times I’m glad were this far away from things like this, and things that shoot gamma ray bursts (GRB’s) at us. GRB’s are ugly events that could be catastrophic to life on our planet if we had a bad day involving one of these events. The universe is trying to kill you.  Strange but true. It has no real agenda it’s just the nature of the beast.

Last but not least this one put a smile on my face. August 5th NASA launched the Juno Spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Juno will orbit Jupiter when it gets there. It has a mere 1,740 million miles to go which will take it about 5 years to get there. It’s doing fine so far, and will send us back data from 8 different instruments after peering down thru the thick Jovian atmosphere. How cool is that? I like it!   It’s hoped that by studying Jupiter will shed some light on the formation of our solar system’s origin. It will give us more information on how the planets formed as well.

There are people who think we should be spending money on other things than exploring space and building satellites. They think the money can be better spent fixing problems with America. Well to me that’s being a tad naive.  If the government is handling this money it sure as hell isn’t going to anything to help the average blue-collar worker. It’ll go for some exorbitant retirement package for some government shit head that’s retiring with full pay plus a retirement package, and full benefits, a car, probably an airplane, and a helicopter or two. I’d rather see the money spent on the space program, than putting more padding under the ass of one of these government types, wouldn’t you?


Exhaust Tuning

A long time ago I had a motorcycle as a teen-ager. Probably not the best idea then and especially not today. I say this because today’s motorcycles are so much more sophisticated than the old English motorcycle I had when I was sixteen. Today’s sport bikes can propel a young person into the land of bent parts and St. Peters Gate at warp speed. Be that as it may that’s not what this is about. It is about exhaust tuning. I had this point really driven home to me when I started fooling around with the exhaust system on this 1962 BSA 500 cc Catalina Scrambler. Because this motorcycle was a single cylinder, any improvements in its power output showed up more so than with a twin.

Enter the megaphone. The English realize that there’s power lurking in their old single cylinder motorcycles in the form of exhaust tuning. I was also interested in road racing motorcycles, most of which were single cylinder motorcycles in the earlier days before the advent of multi-cylinder Italian invasion with their MV Augustas. Most of the Norton Manx, Matchless, and BSA singles used what’s called an inverse cone megaphone. The inverse part of it comes from having a lip on very end of the megaphone that runs at an inverse angle to the main cone. It’s only about an inch in length but makes a big difference in how well the megaphone works. Anyway I couldnt’ find the standard BSA megaphone for my motorcycle, but I did find one that was close. Because this one had a longer than normal lip on it I cut it back. Installing one of these onto the end of the exhaust system was real easy. Just unbolt the muffler and pull it off and install the megaphone, mine had a slip on pipe welded to it. Because the megaphones produce a much stronger negative pulse they have a tendency to lean out the cylinder’s new intake charge so I would raise the metering needle out of the main jet by lowering the needle clip one notch. This raised the needle out of the main jet about 1/16 of an inch. Sounds like a lot but it just made the motor run better. Doing this was like giving the motorcycle the personality of MR. Hyde. It would pull like crazy just up a little out of the low-speed area in the carb. The motor showed definite improvements in torque and horsepower. It was very noticeable. The megaphone did decrease low-end torque right off of idle but more than made up for it everywhere else in the power band.

So this made me wonder why automotive applications weren’t using megaphones?  When I investigated things a little further I found that formula one cars used long taper megaphones on their engines.  I never saw it on drag race cars ever. Exhaust tuning on top fuel and funny cars running lots of supercharger boost and nitromethane is sort of a waste of time. These cars have more horsepower than they can put to the track anyway. But for engines that are not using forced induction then intake and exhaust tuning looks more interesting.

I ran some dyno runs on my computer with Dynomation 5 software from Comp Cams. This is very sophisticated modeling, using emptying and filling algorithms. I used my Olds 455 engine as a base. First let me say that I think this program is a bit pessimistic on its outputs. This could be because I dont’ have all the information it asks for, so I winged it with what I thought the engine has. One area that it was asking for was minimum port cross-sectional area. Well I never bothered to measure it when I put the heads on because I didn’t have the program. It also want to know intake runner length. Again I just guesses at mine at 14″. The engine has a Offenhauser tunnel ram on it so I used the runner length of the manifold base and it’s plenum depth plus the length of the intake runner in the head. I think my runner length is a bit short. Be that as it may I come up with some interesting results by just playing with the exhaust system and nothing else.

First of all the test was run with standard 1.750″ primary tube headers with a length of 36″ and a 4 into 1- 3″ X 8″ collector. Nothing fancy here just your garden variety  455 Olds headers. Increasing the length of the collector from 8″ to 10″ didn’t really do much but produced a measly .1 of a hp gain and a loss of .9 lbs ft. of torque.  Ok so be that as it may it shows that just changing the dimensions of the collector will affect the way an engine tunes but to a very minute degree. I left the 10″ collectors on the engine and stepped the primaries, starting out at 1.750″ and finished the step at 2.00″.  Just doing this the engine picked up 3.8 lbs ft.of torque and 19.9 horsepower!  That’s 20 hp for just stepping the primaries!

Going to a 2.00″ primary and adding a 5″ X 14″ megaphone boosted the power at 5000 & 5500 rpm 21 horsepower!  The larger 2″ pipes hurt the torque a bit at 4000 & 4500 rpm loosing 35 lbs ft. at 4000 rpm but increases it slightly at 4500 rpm. This is usually seen when the primary flow velocities slow down in a larger diameter primary tube. It picks up but at a higher rpm because the flow velocity is lower at a lower rpm. Simple really.  But for a 500 rpm difference the system recovers very well. Usually seen in 1000 rpm increments in other engine systems.

I found this pretty cool considering we didn’t do anything internally to the engine, just tweaking the exhaust system brought about subtle changes in torque and horsepower.

When you get the little things right on an engine they start making big power. The little things are what makes the difference between a car that runs ok and one that puts your eye balls in the back seat.  The exhaust system on street machines that aren’t encumbered by catalytic converters and the like is just begging for experimentation. If you are  satisfied with bolting on a set of headers to your car and hanging some mufflers behind them and calling the system a party then you are overlooking some power. I have to say that the header folks like Hooker, for example, do a pretty good job of designing headers for your engine. They usually have the primary diameter right, and the length. Most street machines with nice manners don’t need stepped headers, megaphones and the like. Pro Street cars and race cars do. Alright so you can’t run your pro street car around with straight megaphones on it, you still need to pay attention to header diameter, collector length etc.  Pro Street cars with lots of cam timing really need to pay attention here. The better you can make the exhaust system the happier the motor will be with that big fat camshaft you stuck in there because you like the way it sounds. Yes I’m guilty of this too, but I got an excuse. I’m conducting an experiment. That’s all I’ll say. I dont’ want to get into this because it’s involved and off topic for this post. So there’s some free hp out there if you are willing to dig for it a little, best part is it’s more or less free, and it won’t affect the reliability of your car and you can put it back the way it was without going thru bankruptcy court.  FARM OUT.



During my time in the Army I was stationed in Korea for a year. It was an interesting experience and changed my life a little. I had a chance to get to know the Korean people and see their cultures. They have a term, I don’t think it’s part of the real Korean dialect but if they give you something they say “Presento.”  I like that. Presento. It has a nice ring to it, and shows respect to my way of thinking. It makes the act of giving something stand out more than just saying “here ya go,” like we do.

Animals do the presento thing too, you just have to know how to spot it. My dog does presento all the time. He’s not the only one either. It’s a dog deed to present one’s master with something deemed valuable in the canine mind. Doesn’t necessarily jive with what most humans consider valuable but it’s still done none-the-less and we as dog owners, should make a fuss over it when our dog partners bring us a “Presento.”

Dog “Presentos” can be anything, literally. Something dead heaven forbid, a stick ( I get a lot of these), a ball, someone else’s ball, just about anything that our canine friends deem worthy of our inspection. I think sometimes dogs just think that maybe they should bring a “presento” to our attention to see if it’s something we should be concerned about.  Take for instance drug doggies that sniff out contraband drugs. This is a presento in reverse. They are taking you to the presento instead of bring it to you. Good deal for the good guys bad deal for the baddies.

I got a very unique “presento” today. I’ll have to set this up so you can get the full value of the entire dog deed here. Most of the time I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on this little tiny maple table in my living room. It’s strategically placed in front of the TV, imagine that? Okay so if some food exits my fork between said plate and my mouth it lands on the floor. No big deal the dog is on floor duty so I don’t worry about it. If he misses it the errant food unit gets to meet Mr. Vacuum Cleaner soon. Well the other day I was having a piece of cheesy, store-bought cherry pie. One of the cherries decided it’s fate wasn’t to be decided in my digestive system so it bailed  off the fork and landed the way only a soggy cherry with cheap store-bought syrup can land on an oak floor. “Plop!”  Zeph saw it go down and he came over and investigated. He decided he didn’t like store-bought cherries much either and left it. No big deal I was gonna sic the paper towels on this rogue cherry but upon going into the bedroom saw the cherry now deposited on the rug in front of Zeph’s crate. Guess he changed his mind about Mr. Cherry. Well it was still un-ate  just syrup-lacking now. A dog-licked cherry if you will. Actually this was a stealth cherry presento but I just didn’t know it yet.  I decided I’d pick it up pretty soon. Now before you tidy folks throw up your hands and run thru the wall saying “how can Dave let dead cherries lay around?”  I don’t. I don’t let any food ly around, I just did today is all.

I decided to go out and ding around in the shop for awhile today. I wasn’t really into getting my Oldmobile hat on today but I needed to check some things out. The dog and I spent about 3 hours dinging around out there, I built a fire and we just sort hung out. I made some measurements built a mock up deal for a test thing I was doing that had the Oldsmobile Rocket right square in the middle of it.  The dog convinced me to leave the shop, he didn’t have to lick my face much to get me to do that. So after a game of Chuck it Ball, we came in the house. I took off my boots and socks and retreived my flips flops that had just made a trip thru the washing machine and dryer last night. While I was walking around I kept feeling something strange between my right foot and the flip flop. I finally decided to see what it was.  It was a dog presento! Indeed, it was the cherry!  The dog decided to deposite his presento on my flip flop. He’s done similar things like this before. I have probably stepped on more strange things than any other human on the planet because of the dogs flip flop jones. He licked the damn things one day so when I put them on they were almost soggy!  Felt like I was walking on quicksand.

So I got a cherry presento today from Zephyr. I thanked him for it. Some folks would have been mad, yelling mean things at the dog for this. If you own a dog you will get presentos it’s just in their nature. Doesn’t mean their out to get you, or trying to get even because you didn’t play with them today. It’s just a dog thing. Just smile when you get a presento, it’s the dog’s way of showing you he thinks you might be important.  True story here, the dog is showing you that he values your opinion on what he’s found. So you should feel flattered by his presento to you.

Dogs do things we don’t understand sometimes. It’s our job as humans to understand that. We are supposed to be smarter than they are, so if your dog chews a hole in the comforter on your bed like mine has don’t hit him, or raise hell with him. Go get a needle and thread like I do and sew it up. While you are doing that maybe meditate on why you think he chewed up the comforter. It will do no good to scold him, punish him, put him outside, withhold his supper, or any dipshit things humans think dogs relate to after something they have done.  My Mother used to tell me that a dog forgets what they’ve done five minutes after they’ve done it. I believe that. To a dog presentos are here one minute and gone the next, especially if you rescue the presento from where you found it, in my case squished between my foot and my flip flop. I’m not saying to reward bad behaviour with a smile, but you have to decide if the presento is actually bad behavior or just your dog’s way  of showing you he values your opinion and loves you. After all, that what we expect of him, so he also expects that of you.