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Numbers that Don't Exist! Imagine That! *

Counting was once a positive experience. Numbers are now a lot more complex. Math needs a few new rules and the Italian mathematician, Rafel Bombelli, has provided a few deceptively simple ones:

Plus times plus makes plus
Minus times minus makes plus
Plus times minus makes minus
Minus times plus makes minus

But what about the square root of negative one? This breaks the rule but in some calculations it is easier to imagine that such a number might exist until it is cancelled out later, saving us from thinking about what they really are. These placeholders are called imaginary numbers. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
There are fundamental mysteries in math, physics and the universe that we ignore in order to move forward. We trust that someday we will understand it all. Example: A lot of money was spent finding the Higgs Boson because we trusted that the Standard Model of the Universe was mostly correct, but there are still holes in the Model large enough to drive a truck through. I'm sticking with the Standard Model, because it mostly works, but the Universe is not as predictable as I thought it was and it scares the heck out of me. (For more information, see "The Horizon Problem") [3] [4]

A New Star and a Star Trek Misstep

Aristotle said that the stars are unchanging but something has just changed. A new star called a "supernova" appears in the constellation Cassiopeia (cah-see-OH-pee-ah). It is that "W" in the northern night sky across from the Big Dipper. As a star exhausts it's fuel, it suddenly collapses, blowing off its outer layer of gas and producing a flash of brightness lasting from hours to days. This is a nova or "new star". A supernova is even more dramatic. A star will blow off so much material that the brightness will rival all the stars in a galaxy and last for months or years. This supernova will be visible to the naked eye until 1574. It will be known as Tycho's Supernova after the astronomer who will write a paper pointing out that this new star and the rest of the sky should be defined and cataloged. Soon, astronomers will notice stars that vary in brightness on a schedule. Eventually, these variable stars will be used to measure the size of the galaxy. [5] [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Before we sigh politely at these astronomers dithering over what stars and novas might be, remember that modern astronomers once thought that quasars (KWAY-zars) were part of our Milky Way galaxy because they could not believe the kind of energy readings that they were getting and the distances they were seeing. In fact, the TV show "Star Trek" had an episode ("The Galileo Seven") where the Enterprise stops to investigate a quasar inside our galaxy. Quasars are not part of our galaxy but rather, early galaxies very, very far away, and amazingly energetic compared to normal galaxies due to the supermassive black holes at their cores feeding on star systems and dust. [8] [9]

Have a Little Faith: We Will Get Through This... Eventually

  • Dr, Who and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre - Assassinations and mob violence kills a lot of Huguenots on this day. This event is also part of a missing episode of the SciFi show, Dr. Who. The Doctor shows up in the midst of the fighting. [10] [11]
  • The Spanish Fury - The town of Mechelen is mostly Catholic so the Protestants abandon it when the Spanish Army shows up. With no one to fight, the Spanish sack the city anyway, taking their pay out of the looting and rape. [12] [13]
  • Duke Thomas Howard is executed for conspiring to assassinate the Regent of King James of Scotland, in part for religious reasons. [14]
  • The Sea Beggars Land - The Dutch Calvinists that went to sea are called "The Sea Beggars" but they have landed and will fight for Dutch independence. They also hang and imprison a lot of Catholic priests. [15]
  • And various sieges too numerous to mention.
My Take by Alex Shrugged
You might be wondering, "Whatever happened to 'Peace on earth, good will towards men'? Well... it's not as if they haven't been trying, but the religious bureaucracy (the structure behind the Church itself) saw "reform" as a synonym for "dismantling" the power base of the Church, and in a practical sense, that was exactly what was happening. It is natural for a bureaucracy to resist change. When President Andrew Jackson tried to dismantle the Second United States Bank, the Bank fought back, or rather the people who benefited from the bank as it was, fought back. Once the charter lapsed in 1836, did the bank go away? No. It went private and discovered that without a government sugar daddy, it wasn't a very good bank and dissolved in 1841. [16] [17] [18]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1572, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Rafael Bombelli - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 7 May 2015. “Born in Bologna, he is the author of a treatise on algebra and is a central figure in the understanding of imaginary numbers.”
  2. Imaginary number - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 8 May 2015. “The name 'imaginary number' was coined in the 17th century as a derogatory term, as such numbers were regarded by some as fictitious or useless. The term 'imaginary number' now means simply a complex number with a real part equal to 0, that is, a number of the form bi.”
  3. The Higgs boson. CERN (Official Site) (2015). Retrieved on 8 May 2015. “On 4 July 2012, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider announced they had each observed a new particle in the mass region around 126 GeV. This particle is consistent with the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard Model.”
  4. Horizon problem - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “The horizon problem is a problem with the standard cosmological model of the Big Bang which was identified in the late 1960s, primarily by Charles Misner. It points out that different regions of the universe have not 'contacted' each other because of the great distances between them, but nevertheless they have the same temperature and other physical properties. This should not be possible, given that the transfer of information (or energy, heat, etc.) can occur, at most, at the speed of light.”
  5. Tycho Brahe - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “In his De nova stella (On the new star) of 1573, he refuted the Aristotelian belief in an unchanging celestial realm. His precise measurements indicated that 'new stars,' (stellae novae, now known as supernovae) in particular that of 1572, lacked the parallax expected in sub-lunar phenomena, and were therefore not tailless comets in the atmosphere as previously believed, but were above the atmosphere and moon. Using similar measurements he showed that comets were also not atmospheric phenomena, as previously thought, and must pass through the supposedly immutable celestial spheres.”
  6. Variable star - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “Of the modern astronomers, the first variable star was identified in 1638 when Johannes Holwarda noticed that Omicron Ceti (later named Mira) pulsated in a cycle taking 11 months; the star had previously been described as a nova by David Fabricius in 1596. This discovery, combined with supernovae observed in 1572 and 1604, proved that the starry sky was not eternally invariable as Aristotle and other ancient philosophers had taught.”
  7. SN 1572 - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 11 May 2015. “The appearance of the Milky Way supernova of 1572 belongs among the more important specific observation events in the history of astronomy. The appearance of the 'new star' helped to revise ancient models of the heavens and to speed on a revolution in astronomy that began with the realized need to produce better astrometric star catalogues (and thus the need for more precise astronomical observing instruments).”
  8. Quasar - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki. en.memory-alpha.org (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “Star Trek's apparent definition of quasars differs from what is established as such in 21st century real-world science. In fact, 'quasars' are always associated with supermassive black holes in the centers of young galaxies, and could therefore not occur within the Milky Way. The quasars, or 'quasar-like objects', mentioned and shown in Star Trek more closely correspond to what real-world science calls Microquasars.”
  9. Quasar - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 11 May 2015. “Quasars or quasi-stellar radio sources are the most energetic and distant members of a class of objects called active galactic nuclei (AGN). Quasars are extremely luminous and were first identified as being high redshift sources of electromagnetic energy, including radio waves and visible light, that appeared to be similar to stars, rather than extended sources similar to galaxies.”
  10. St. Bartholomew's Day massacre - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 7 May 2015. “The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations, followed by a wave of Catholic mob violence, both directed against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), during the French Wars of Religion.”
  11. Doctor Who and the Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “Although audio recordings of the story exist, no footage of this serial is known to have survived.”
  12. Spanish Fury at Mechelen - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 7 May 2015. “The Spanish Fury at Mechelen was an event in the Eighty Years' War on October 2, 1572 in which the city of Mechelen was conquered by the Spanish army and brutally sacked.”
  13. Spanish Fury at Mechelen - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “The mainly Catholic people of Mechelen welcomed the Spanish by singing psalms of penitence in a gesture of surrender. But despite this, Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo unleashed his slaughtering, raping and pillaging troops during three days upon the city.”
  14. Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015.
  15. Geuzen - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “In the Eighty Years' War, the Capture of Brielle by the Watergeuzen in 1572 provided the first foothold on land for the rebels, who would conquer the northern Netherlands and establish an independent Dutch Republic.”
  16. Luke Chapter 2 (ORIGINAL 1611 KJV). KingJamesBibleOnline.org (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good wil towards men.”
  17. Western Schism - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “The Western Schism or Papal Schism was a split within the Roman Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. Several men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414-1418)”
  18. Bank War - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 10 May 2015. “The Bank War refers to the political struggle that developed over the issue of rechartering the Second Bank of the United States (BUS) during the Andrew Jackson administration (1829-1837). Anti-Bank Jacksonian Democrats were mobilized in opposition to the national bank's re-authorization on the grounds that the institution conferred economic privileges on financial elites, violating U.S. constitutional principles of social equality.”

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