On Controversial Subjects


“Odd that we live in a world where even objective truths count as controversial subjects.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

Five-second Rule


Whoever came up with five-second rule had probably just dropped an entire cookie on the ground and needed a sanitary excuse to save it. However, according to research from Clemson University, such a cookie could have picked up toxic salmonella bacteria during that brief time window, especially on a tiled or wooden surface.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Having said that, different foods produce a smorgasbord of results. Comparing the bacteria colonies picked up by dry saltines and wet pastrami after the sodium-rich snacks hung out on a contaminated floor for a few seconds, moist sausage tends to pick up far more flora.

Even food that has spent a mere two seconds on a contaminated surface can be considered suspect. The “five-second rule” seems to be a juvenile fiction. In fact, even if something spends a mere millisecond on the floor, it attracts bacteria. How dirty it gets depends on the food’s moisture, surface geometry and floor condition – not time.

Sad news for clumsy eaters and students everywhere: the “five-second rule” is a myth.

“You could also ask who’s in charge. Lots of people think, well, we’re humans; we’re the most intelligent and accomplished species; we’re in charge. Bacteria may have a different outlook: more bacteria live and work in one linear centimeter of your lower colon than all the humans who have ever lived. That’s what’s going on in your digestive tract right now. Are we in charge, or are we simply hosts for bacteria? It all depends on your outlook.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier

Neutron Star‏


Neutron stars are ancient remnants of stars that have reached the end of their evolutionary journey through space and time.

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” – Plato

English: Artist's illustration of an 'isolated...

Artist’s illustration of an isolated neutron star

These interesting objects are born from once-large stars that grew to four to eight times the size of our own sun before exploding in catastrophic supernovae.

After such an explosion blows a star’s outer layers into space, the core remains—but it no longer produces nuclear fusion.

With no outward pressure from fusion to counterbalance gravity’s inward pull, the star condenses and collapses in upon itself.

Despite their small diameters—about 12.5 miles (20 kilometres)—neutron stars boast nearly 1.5 times the mass of our sun, and are thus incredibly dense. Just a sugar cube of neutron star matter would weigh about one hundred million tons on Earth.

A neutron star’s almost incomprehensible density causes protons and electrons to combine into neutrons—the process that gives such stars their name. The composition of their cores is unknown, but they may consist of a neutron superfluid or some unknown state of matter.

Neutron stars pack an extremely strong gravitational pull, much greater than Earth’s. This gravitational strength is particularly impressive because of the stars’ small size.

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centres of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

When they are formed, neutron stars rotate in space. As they compress and shrink, this spinning speeds up because of the conservation of angular momentum—the same principle that causes a spinning skater to speed up when she pulls in her arms.