Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, January 13, 2018

MVNews this week:  Page A:11

Mountain Views-News Saturday, January 13, 2018 11THE WORLD AROUND US 
Mountain Views-News Saturday, January 13, 2018 11THE WORLD AROUND US 
How far away is that galaxy?

Our entire understanding of the universe is based onknowing the distances to other galaxies, yet this seeminglysimple question turns out to be fiendishly difficult toanswer. The best answer came more than 100 years agofrom an astronomer who was mostly unrecognizedin her time -- and today, another astronomer hasused Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data to makethose distance measurements more precise than ever.

“It’s been fascinating to work with such 
historically significant stars,” says Kate Hartman, 
an undergraduate from Pomona College.
Hartman studied “Cepheid variables,” a type ofstar that periodically pulses in and out, varying inbrightness over the course of a few days or weeks.

The pattern was first noticed in 1784 in theconstellation Cepheus in the northern sky, so these starsbecame known as “Cepheid variables.” Cepheid variableswent from interesting to completely indispensable in theearly 1900s thanks to the work by astronomer HenriettaLeavitt. Leavitt’s contributions were largely ignored forone simple reason -- she was a woman at a time whenwomen were not taken seriously as astronomers.

In fact, when Leavitt was first hired by HarvardCollege Observatory in 1895, she was hired as a“computer.” In the days before modern computers, a“computer” was a person hired to perform complexcalculations, assisted only by pencil and paper.
Although the work was demanding, it was not takenseriously by the male professional scientists of the time-- it was seen as rote work not requiring intelligence orinsight that could be done by anyone, even a woman.

So in 1908 when Leavitt discovered a relationshipbetween the brightness (or “luminosity”) of a Cepheidvariable star and the time it took to go through afull cycle of change (its “period”), her work was notimmediately recognized for its significance. It tookyears for the mostly-male astronomy community torealize that this relationship (today known as “theLeavitt Law”) means that measuring the periodof a Cepheid variable immediately gives its truebrightness -- and furthermore, that comparing this toits apparent brightness immediately gives its distance.

Using the period-luminosity relationship thatLeavitt discovered, others later calculated the 
distances to Cepheid variables in galaxies outside 



[Nyerges is the author handle your balance.

of various books such Eventually, all your money goes to paying off the

as “Extreme Simplicity:minimum amount due, and it seems that you will

Homesteading in the City,” never get out of debt. Was it worth it? You’re now a

“Self-Sufficient Home,” slave of the banks. 

“Squatter in Los Angeles,” I once overhead a conversation where the 
and other books. He has led outdoor field trips sinceindividual was describing how much money they1974. His schedule is available at www.SchoolofSelf-had left. “What does that mean?” I inquired. or at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA were describing how much more credit they had90041]left on their credit card, as if that was their own 

I don’t like seeing people waste money, their ownmoney in a wallet somewhere. In fact, the personor other people’s. For most of us, money representshad NO money “left”—the amount being discussedthe transfer of our work into a tangible abstractwas simply the amount of more money that thewhich we use to get the things and services we needcredit card company would allow the person to goin life. Money equals our time, our work, our life.even deeper into debt without worrying too much.
If you think that I am placing too much value onThough lots of people use credit cards without anymoney it’s undoubtedly because I place money rightserious problems, for many others, the use of easyup there with oxygen as something that is is part of the fast road to financial failure. If(yes, stolen quote)you’re one of those people, one of your best courses

I am not optimistic about the state of ourof action is to first take a complete assessment ofeconomic health, with the government doing whatall your actual needs. Stop buying anything youno one of us can do – survive decade after decade absolutely cannot live without. In fact, if you arewith “deficit spending,” which means money wehaving difficulty paying off your credit cards eachdon’t have, which means, literally, bankruptcy!month, you might be well advised to cut up those

The individual should do everything possible tocards and operate on a cash basis until you knowlive within their economic means both as a lifestyle,you are back on solid footing.
a mentality, and as a way to avoid personal disaster.There are also legitimate agencies that help youThough this is part of a much longer series aboutmanage your debt so you can get out of debt. Thispersonal economics, let’s start with credit cards.means the agency will re-negotiate your debt so

The convenience of a credit card is obvious. I that you can pay one fee each month, often at acan go to Trader Joes and not have to worry aboutlower interest rate. Obviously, however, you mustcarrying sufficient cash, and I can buy what I need,change your behavior or you will never get out ofslide my card, and go home with groceries. Thedebt, and you will be “poor” forever.
problem with this is that too many users – especiallyWhen I read statistics about how up to 90% ofin the beginning – get addicted to the card in thethe American public are dissatisfied and unfulfilledsame way that one gets addicted to heroin. It is soin their life, I have to look at the possible reasons.
easy, and it feels so good, but it is not free.One of the biggest reasons is a dissatisfaction with

Let me begin with my conclusion, somethinqgone’s chosen employment, because – let’s face it –
that too many have learned too late. If you cannoteveryone needs an income and sometimes we takepay off your credit card at the end of each month,whatever we can get. If we do not continually seekyou cannot afford what you have purchased, andemployment that is more personally fulfilling, weyou should not buy whatever it is you think youbegin to wonder what our life is all about. I haveneed or want. There are a few exceptions, however,seen it all too often. Then, too many of us try to findas my friend Robert Blair always told me: A house,fulfillment or happiness with the junk that we buy,
obviously. An education, because the educationand then we lose ourselves into our technologicalpresumably will enable you, long-term, to earnworld of emails and smart phones and facebookmuch more than you would have earned without it.and twitters and television. And that choice to seek 
And, unfortunately, a vehicle. More on these threemeaning with more stuff, and more technology,
later. proves to be a futile path, where we don’t find

Remember, if you cannot pay off the balance ofhappiness and we get even poorer.
your card every month, you cannot afford the itemsYes, I know this is just the tip of an iceberg. In 
in question, and should not buy them in the firstsummary, you really must work hard to stay out of 
place.debt by always delineating need from want. If your 

But everyone forgets that last sentence, at onelife doesn’t depend on it, don’t buy it. And your 
time or another, to their peril.fulfillment in life will come from your face-to-

The balance – and interest – build. You learn face interactions and workings with other people. 
to pay the minimum required by the credit cardGo on a diet from your technological toys for a 
company, as the principle gets bigger. Eventually,while. You might find a new life that was there all 
you learn to juggle your credit card debt from cardalong, and you might find that your wallet is a bit 
to card to try and find the lowest interest rate to healthier too. 

improve our knowledge of Cepheid variables is thebe an excellent summer research project to find out.” 
Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s Apache Point GalacticThe undergraduate to take on the challenge wasEvolution Experiment (APOGEE), which is Kate Hartman. She was able to demonstrate that it 
systematically mapping the chemical compositionsis possible to get consistent measurements of theand motions of stars in all components of our galaxy.chemical makeup of Cepheid variables, regardless of

The very property of these stars that allowed when in their cycle they were observed by APOGEE.
Henrietta Leavitt to discover the Leavitt Law -- their Hartman explains, “I had to look at multiplepredictable variations in brightness -- creates challengesspectra from the same Cepheid variable andfor APOGEE. “Over a pulsation cycle of a Cepheidmeasure the amount of different elements in the star. 
variable, the star’s properties change,” says Beaton. “ItsWhen we looked at a star’s spectrum across its entiretemperature, surface gravity, and atmospheric propertiespulsation cycle, we found no significant differencescan vary greatly over a fairly short time. So how canin the results. That means that we’re getting reliableAPOGEE properly measure them? I thought it would results every time we look.” 


A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder 


I do confess that I enjoy the holiday seasons just else around the table did, that I was stuffed and I 
like everybody else. One of the main ingredients could not entertain another bite. 
I enjoy more than anything else is the holiday At this point, the dessert came to the table. 
cuisine. At our house, I must duly confess, it is the Oh boy, looking at that dessert and smelling the 
best. marvelous aroma I rediscovered my appetite. 

The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage is the When the call came out, “Anybody want dessert?” 
cooking queen when it comes to all of this holiday I was the first to respond in the positive. I believe 
food. She does a wonderful job and my job is in positive thinking, especially at dessert time.
simply to consume as much of it as I possibly can. It was the next day when the reality of all of this 
We both manage our jobs quite professionally!set in. As my wife is thinking about dinner, she 
As long as no dish has anything like broccoli in asked me a simple question, “How about having 
it, I will eat it and enjoy it. Broccoli has a way leftovers tonight for dinner?”
of confusing my taste buds. I’ll not go into any At the time I did not think too much of it and 
further detail. grunted a positive response and went back to 

It amazes me how my wife can go to the grocery reading my book.
store, buy bags of groceries and turn all of that into In a few moments, I began to smell something 
the most scrumptious dinner this side of heaven.wonderfully delicious. The smell was coming 
As much as I love the holiday cuisine, I must from the kitchen and then I heard a wonderful 
concede there is something I love more than that. invitation, “Supper’s ready. Let’s eat.” 
I must be careful how I say this because I do not As I situated myself at the table, I began to look 
want to compromise in any way my attendance around at what was called “leftovers” and was 
at the next holiday banquet in our residence. I delighted by what I saw.
have learned through the years as a husband to be We always have prayer before we eat and I must 
careful what I say and what I do not say and I must confess I had a very abbreviated prayer because I 
say that I am still on the learning track here.wanted to get into those leftovers.
What is better than a holiday banquet?Every bite seemed more delicious than the 

Right here is where I need to walk very carefully. previous bite. How my wife can take leftovers and 
For years, I have kept this little thought to myself. mix it all up into a marvelously delicious supper I 
However, I must come out and confess this. No will never know. I do not need to know. All I need 
longer can I keep it a secret because it is a very to do is enjoy the delicacy of her cuisine art.
important aspect of my holiday celebration.For the next week, we enjoyed leftovers every 

As good as the holiday banquet is in our house suppertime. The last night the table was not quite 
there is something much better. I am referring, of as full as before and my wife informed me that this 
course, to leftovers. was the last of the leftovers. 

My wife cooks so much that there is always Of course, my heart sank within me realizing 
an abundance of leftovers. If you know anything that the delicious aspect of the holiday banqueting 
about my wife, you know she does not throw was about to come to a close. I never realized 
anything away. We recycle as much as possible, before how much I loved those leftovers. I don’t 
which also includes food. To throw food away in know if it is because I am getting older, or, if I 
our house is a criminal offence. You do not want am just recognizing things I’ve never recognized 
to know the penalty!before. 
T hrough the years the leftovers have become There is a little bit of magic associated with 
better and better. I know that the quality of putting together leftovers and making them more 
any leftover has to do with the initial cooking. delicious than the original setting.
I must say I enjoy that first level of cooking for As I finished the last of the leftovers I thought 
Thanksgiving and Christmas and every other of something Jesus said after he fed the multitude, 
holiday. I have come to discover, however, that “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, 
the leftovers are just as good if not better than the Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing lost” (John 6:12).

I never thought too much about this until Even in my spiritual life when God blesses me, 
recently. The refrigerator was packed with food there are leftovers people around can enjoy. A life 
left over from our Christmas and New Year’s Day so blessed, blesses everybody around.
dinners. The table was set most spectacularly and Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God 
I, and a few family members, set down to stuffFellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He 
ourselves with these holiday vittles. Oh, how lives with his wife in Silver Springs Shores. Call him 
delicious every bite 352-687-4240 or e-mail 

I must say I had come to the point, as everybody The church web site is 

our own Milky Way. In doing so, they discoveredthat our universe is expanding, starting from asingle point more than 14 billion years ago at theBig Bang -- a discovery that would have never beenpossible without the discovery of the Leavitt Law.

More than a century later, astronomers likeHartman are carrying on Leavitt’s work. Her 
announcement came about as a result of a ten-week 
summer research project at Carnegie Observatories.
Hartman worked closely with her research 
advisor, Rachael Beaton, a Hubble and Carnegie-
Princeton fellow now based at Princeton University.

The tool that Hartman and Beaton are using to 

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