# Explosive power of a supernova?

It's actually better to think in terms of things that will give you numbers between 1 and 100. I can imagine a 100 trees or seashells, and I can imagine the difference between 1, 10, 100, or 1000 of something.

I can't really imagine 10^28 of something. However, I can imagine 28.

It helps to think of two numbers. For supernova, the numbers are 1 and 51, both of which I can visualize since they are less than 100.

You know, that's a really good point, and I think that's already how most of us think of orders of magnitude in such extremes. I never would have articulated that way however, very cool. Still, I have doubts that while I agree, you'd win over the huge numbers of people who want what they think is a "real-world" comparison. I find it odd that somehow a nuclear detonation qualifies, but hey, I guess it's all about preconceptions (not yours).

jambaugh
Gold Member
10^53 ergs = 23 on the Richter scale.
Yea, not all that useful.

10^28 = 10 x (10^9)^3. So imagine a billion of some length unit say one billion millimeters per 1000km. So imagine a cube 1000 kilometers to the side, and fill it with millimeter sized cubes (say a grain of course sand). Let each grain be 10 2.5 megaton yield H-bombs and set em off.

"Brite frash, roud boom!"

10^53 ergs = 23 on the Richter scale.
Yea, not all that useful.

10^28 = 10 x (10^9)^3. So imagine a billion of some length unit say one billion millimeters per 1000km. So imagine a cube 1000 kilometers to the side, and fill it with millimeter sized cubes (say a grain of course sand). Let each grain be 10 2.5 megaton yield H-bombs and set em off.

"Brite frash, roud boom!"

The boom was my head popping!

You know, that's a really good point, and I think that's already how most of us think of orders of magnitude in such extremes. I never would have articulated that way however, very cool. Still, I have doubts that while I agree, you'd win over the huge numbers of people who want what they think is a "real-world" comparison.

Scales are important. In astronomy a nuclear explosion really isn't that much energy. Yes you can destroy a city and if you have enough of them perhaps human civilization, but in astronomy we are talking about things that can destroy planets and stars.

Also one of the core skills that taught in my intro astronomy class at University of Phoenix was how to think about large numbers. Most of the students were MBA's so I wanted to teach "something you could take to the office tomorrow and make money with" and some tricks on how to think about large numbers helps you deal with the difference between a million dollars and a billion dollars.

Scales are important. In astronomy a nuclear explosion really isn't that much energy. Yes you can destroy a city and if you have enough of them perhaps human civilization, but in astronomy we are talking about things that can destroy planets and stars.

Also one of the core skills that taught in my intro astronomy class at University of Phoenix was how to think about large numbers. Most of the students were MBA's so I wanted to teach "something you could take to the office tomorrow and make money with" and some tricks on how to think about large numbers helps you deal with the difference between a million dollars and a billion dollars.

Fair enough, but a nuclear explosion is not a good metric in my view. For one, it's not a standard when the range is 1KT-50MT, and when you consider that most people have only vague images of mushroom clouds in their heads it's worse. I'm not saying that considering large numbers is a bad idea, but using the nuclear bomb example gives a false sense of comprehension for most.

In my experience most people don't even know that KT/MT refers to tons of TNT, which is another measure I suspect most are not intimately familiar with. In an earlier post I talked about using something like the output of a flashlight, Sol, and more to start with. If you want to make something truly comprehensible you start with something people are intimately familiar with, then work your way up to the astronomical. I mean, destroying stars is one thing, then you have quasars which require comparisons to the total output of a galaxy.

I don't care how amazing your grasp of large numbers is; putting the output of a quasar over a second into kilotons or megatons is an exercise in futility in terms of really understanding what that means. Tons of TNT is a useful scale for nuclear explosions, just like the distance from Earth to Sol is for examples in our system. For a supernova, I'd reach for something familiar, but a bit more energetic than a nuclear bomb. The energy of a hurricane of a given class, or a tornado of a given grade for instance. Earthquakes, and other events people routinely witness first or secondhand are more useful in my view than nuclear detonations.

So, tricks are fine even if orders of magnitude are best, but I'd say those tricks should be something that impart real knowledge. I guess those Phoenixes who are also nuclear RSO's or engineers might be helped by nuclear yield, but for the rest something a little closer to home might be better. That's my opinion of course, and I presume you've had real world success with your methods.

Fair enough, but a nuclear explosion is not a good metric in my view. For one, it's not a standard when the range is 1KT-50MT, and when you consider that most people have only vague images of mushroom clouds in their heads it's worse. I'm not saying that considering large numbers is a bad idea, but using the nuclear bomb example gives a false sense of comprehension for most.

In my experience most people don't even know that KT/MT refers to tons of TNT, which is another measure I suspect most are not intimately familiar with. In an earlier post I talked about using something like the output of a flashlight, Sol, and more to start with. If you want to make something truly comprehensible you start with something people are intimately familiar with, then work your way up to the astronomical. I mean, destroying stars is one thing, then you have quasars which require comparisons to the total output of a galaxy.

I don't care how amazing your grasp of large numbers is; putting the output of a quasar over a second into kilotons or megatons is an exercise in futility in terms of really understanding what that means. Tons of TNT is a useful scale for nuclear explosions, just like the distance from Earth to Sol is for examples in our system. For a supernova, I'd reach for something familiar, but a bit more energetic than a nuclear bomb. The energy of a hurricane of a given class, or a tornado of a given grade for instance. Earthquakes, and other events people routinely witness first or secondhand are more useful in my view than nuclear detonations.

So, tricks are fine even if orders of magnitude are best, but I'd say those tricks should be something that impart real knowledge. I guess those Phoenixes who are also nuclear RSO's or engineers might be helped by nuclear yield, but for the rest something a little closer to home might be better. That's my opinion of course, and I presume you've had real world success with your methods.

Even more powerful than supernovas, are gamma ray bursts.

Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
Even more powerful than supernovas, are gamma ray bursts.

I believe a gamma ray burst is caused by a supernova. I would say that the gamma ray burst is part of the supernova.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_ray_burst

I believe a gamma ray burst is caused by a supernova. I would say that the gamma ray burst is part of the supernova.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_ray_burst

I saw a documentary on the science channel about how a gamma ray burst shatters the theory of relativity.

Is that actually true?

Drakkith
Staff Emeritus
I saw a documentary on the science channel about how a gamma ray burst shatters the theory of relativity.

Is that actually true?

I don't think so. Do you remember any details about why they said it would?

Even more powerful than supernovas, are gamma ray bursts.

Maybe. How powerful gamma ray bursts are depends on how focused the beam is, and the last time I checked (and newer information is appreciated), the beam is wide enough so that the total energy is about 10x your average supernova.

The problem was that there was too much energy if radiated isotropically. But the problem was resolved by determining that the GRB is a narrow beam.

Maybe he's talking about relativistic jets, which only appear to be superluminal, are not, and don't "shatter... relativity."

I don't know about a GRB and LGRB being only the product of a supernova, but they are products of CSOs and collapse events, right... often supernovae?