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January 18, 2021

#2413: Pulsar Analogy

Pulsar Analogy

[Cueball and Ponytail are standing next to each other.]

Cueball: Why do pulsars spin so fast?

Ponytail: Hmm, let me think of an analogy…

[A tape measure is retracting above Ponytail’s head. To the right of her head, a tape measure is spinning rapidly.]

Retracting tape measure: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Spinning tape measure: SNAP

Ponytail: You know how when you retract a tape measure and let go, it leaves it spinning?

Ponytail: It’s like that.

Cueball (off-panel): Oh, I see.

[A tape measure with a laser instead of a measuring tape is spinning slowly.]

Cueball (off-panel): And if the tape measure is the kind with a laser level, that’s the beam of radiation?

Ponytail (off-panel): Exactly!

[Cueball and Ponytail are walking next to each other in silhouette.]

Ponytail: And when the tape whips around and smacks your hand, that’s the neutron degeneracy shockwave.

Cueball: Sounds painful!

Ponytail: Top cause of astronomer hand injuries.