Interesting science reading for the day:

For those of you interested in astrophysics, this week’s Science has a very interesting set of articles about pulsars, magnetars and neutron stars. Particularly interesting are the news articles “The Pulsar Menagerie” (1) and “Crushed by Magnetism,” (2) and Lattimer and Prakash’s review article “The Physics of Neutron Stars.” (3) The latter includes a great discussion of the state of our understanding of type II supernovae and how neutron stars are formed.

(Interesting thought from this: The typical total energy release in a type II SNa is ~3*1053 erg, about 10% of the total mc2 for the star. Of this, about 1% is kinetic energy, 0.01% is photons, and the overwhelming remainder is a wall of neutrinos. During one key stage in the collapse, a region of star becomes sufficiently dense to become opaque to neutrinos (! – mean free path of about 10cm over a 20km region) so energy can build up in this form, and it’s the sudden release of that which triggers the primary explosive shock wave. There’s just something neat about that.)

And on another side, there’s a new report out by Laumann et al titled The Sexual Organization of the City. (4) It discusses how cities tend to split into several independent “sexual marketplaces,” often with radically different customs, leading to questions about how cities need to manage things like health and social issues with more refined tools. So far, I’ve only read the NY Times review, but I intend to get my hands on a copy of the full report asap – it looks like a good read.

(1) Science, 23 April 2004, vol. 304 pp. 532-3
(2) Science, ibid., pp. 534-5
(3) Science, ibid., pp. 536-41
(4) E. O. Laumann et al., (eds.) The Sexual Organization of the City, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill., 2004.

Published in: on May 1, 2004 at 14:53  Comments (6)  


  1. Very interesting article. I am curious about the full text, since the author only mentioned male tendency to polygamy, but not the female tendency towards polyandry, considering that women as a whole are more independent nowadays and have less incentive to get married as well.

  2. Well, they were discussing it in the context of a specific social group showing signs thereof, not as a general behavior of society. I would be fairly surprised if that particular group showed signs of pervasive polyandry; the women there are too numerous relative to the men, and their economic situations too precarious, for that to make much sense.
    (I wonder if there are any groupings in the US where that’s happening… hmm…)

  3. Ok when you said type II supernovae, i thought closed strings for a second.. gah… so drunk. Did you ever have the experience as a grad student of going to some party with some people you knew and for some reason all these cute girls knew that you were a physics ta, and somehow you had massively increased hookup potential due to this.. And then the wine, and then the six pack of fat tire amber ale, and then the couch, and then the “oh shit i dont have my cell phone, you’d better be on IM.. wait how do i know you?..”
    Yeah. Grad School rocks. Stupid non-physics based distractions. heh..

  4. I want a pair of shades that’s opaque to neutrinos. Or, better yet, a parabolic reflector opaque to neutrinos. Just think of the havoc!

  5. I think that falls under “fringe benefits that for some reason they never told us about beforehand.”
    (And oddly enough, yes, I have had that experience…)

  6. I think the reviewer is possibly smoking just a little bit of crack.
    He applies the argument that having sex before marriage necessarily taints and replaces the social goods that come from marriage, pointing to the marriage rate dropping. But perhaps marriage correlates with happiness because it correllates 1) having the government benefits of being married and 2) having the social approval of being married (both these could lead to a child having more opporutnities). Gay couples are well aware by the benefits of state-sanctioned marriage.
    I would hope that as the sex market became an alternative source of sex outside of the marriage market, the divorce rate would go down since you’d hope only the people who really want to get married do so. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I wonder what kinds of studies have been done of divorce rates.
    I suppose it does make sense for the divorce rate to go up as long as the fantasy of married life is sold the same way culturally and yet financial independence seems to be more equally distributed across partners now, reducing lock in. I wonder if families with large income discrepancy, or poorer families, get divorce less (since it seems like the efficiencies of group living might be more necessary there).

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