Eposode 119: On the demolition ship

Comic Transcript

Panel 1.
[Inside the Burton Demolition Ship.]
Carl: Greetings! Welcome aboard the Demolition Ship Burton!
Alkina: Hello, I am Alkina, and this is Epo.

Panel 2.
Carl: My name is cppfg’algrtyz’rofl ‘liztfgh…but everyone here calls me Carl. I’m the lead scientist on this mission, but I don’t have much to do while the engineering teams work. Would you like to tour the ship?

Panel 3.
Alkina: We’re really here to talk to Wosec, do you know when he will be available?
Carl: Not for a while I am afraid; triggering gamma-ray bursts is a tricky business. Did you know that’s what we do here?

Panel 4.
Alkina: Yes, we had gathered that much, though how you actually do it remains a mystery to us.
Carl: And a mystery it must remain I’m afraid; trade secrets and all, you understand I’m sure. But aren’t you relieved to know it’s getting done?

Panel 5.
Alkina: I never really thought about it.
Carl: Oh? I’ll certainly sleep better knowing the Milky Way is GRB-free for the next few million years.

Panel 6.
Epo: Gamma-ray Bursts are exceedingly rare, they only occur every couple of million years in any given galaxy.
Carl: Not if we have anything to do with it. And we ensure that the GRB’s collimated energy is released away from any inhabited regions of space. Now, how about that tour?

What does it mean?

Collimated – Means that all the energy moves in a confined column of light, with the rays of energy traveling nearly parallel to one another. This means they behave less like the spherically dispersed light from a light bulb, which fades quickly as you get further away, and more like the directed light generated by a laser.

In human speak please!

An important characteristic of a gamma-ray burst (GRB) is that the released energy is highly collimated – instead of the energy spreading out in all directions from the source, like an expanding sphere, the energy is only sent out along a narrow beam. This means that here on Earth, we can only observe the energies from gamma-ray bursts that happen to be pointing towards us. Scientists think that the energy from GRBs is highly collimated because if we assume the energy goes out in all directions then we know of no possible source to power it. The energy would just be too huge to be produced by any process we can imagine. In addition, the measurements of the GRB’s spectral energy distribution as the burst fades provides additional evidence that the beam is collimated.

Multimedia? Yep, we’ve got it right here!

Animation of a gamma-ray burst with collimated emission. From “Naked-Eye” Gamma-ray Burst Was Aimed Squarely at Earth.