* (pronounced "star"), is a technical term in combinatoric game theory for a type of two-player, perfect-information game in which the first player wins (assuming correct play). In a game of value *, the only move for either player is to a zero game, that is, a game where the player whose turn it is loses.

For example, in the game domineering, the following corner-shaped grid is of value *:

|  |  |
|  |

Whichever player goes first will play a domino in two of the three squares on the grid. The unfortunate second player will not have a move, and will thus lose.

* is interesting re: smallest number greater than 0. It has value less than any positive game (a positive game is one where the Left player wins) and greater than any negative game, but is not greater than, less than, or equal to zero itself. Technically, * is not even a number.

For those interested, the partial order assumed in the last paragraph is defined as follows:
A > B iff A + (-B) > 0, where -B is the inverse of the game B.
A > 0 iff the Left player can win regardless of who goes first.
A point of interest is that * + * = 0.

The mathematicians among us should recognize this as just the adjoining of an element to the additive group of real numbers that is its own inverse.

Combinatoric game theory is full of non-numerical elements (switches are another fine example), but * is the simplest and most common of them all.

Almost all of the points of light visible in the Earth's sky are stars. Prehistoric cultures saw mythological patterns in them (constellations). The Old Testament envisioned them as pinpricks in a piece of cloth, letting in light from heaven. Later, Ptolemy developed a model of the universe with Earth at its center, the sun, moon, and planets in various orbits, and the stars at the outer edge, affixed to a spherical shell, the firmament.

As science progressed, it was eventually discovered that the stars we can see are not in fact pinpricks, but objects very similar to our own sun, dimmer only because they are so ludicrously far away. Like the sun, they are balls of gas that glow with unimaginable brightness and heat.


For complex cosmological reasons, the universe has been clumpy almost from the get go about 13 billion years ago. Gravity, being the only one of the four fundamental forces to act on all matter equally, has a tendency to make gigantic clumpy things clumpier. The universe, therefore, has been getting clumpier for quite some time, and will continue to do so. One of the outcomes of this is the formation of stars.

A star begins life as a nebula, a diffuse cloud of hydrogen gas (and sometimes other gaseous elements, and sometimes a bit of dust) as large as or larger than the solar system. Over time, the cloud becomes clumpier: specifically, a very large, very dense clump develops in the center, drawing in more and more of the nebula.* Because the individual bits of gas retain their momentum, the clump rotates (think of an ice skater pulling in their arms as they go into a spin). Eventually, if the nebula was large enough to begin with, the gas at the bottom of the nebula -- at the center -- has a lot on top of it, and is compressed with a tremendous amount of force; the very atoms are packed so closely that they begin to undergo fusion: they meld with one another to form helium. This releases a lot of energy -- a lot of heat, and a lot of light. It also releases pressure outward. The nebula stops contracting. It is now a main sequence star.


The remainder of the star's existence will be a tug of war between gravity, which wants to crush the star into a tiny tiny ball, and the fusion going on inside, which wants to explode the star and send pieces of it hurtling through the universe. In small stars, red dwarfs, this plays out over a tremendously long period of time; despite having less hydrogen than large stars, the interior is not subject to as much pressure, and so fusion is less intense and the hydrogen is used up very slowly indeed (the lifespan of a red dwarf is orders of magnitude longer than the total amount of time elapsed in the universe so far). This is evidenced by the color: a star glowing red is not as hot as one glowing white (nor as bright; red dwarfs are undetectable to the naked eye). As a red dwarf exhausts its hydrogen, it releases less and less energy, becomes dimmer and dimmer. As it releases less energy, there is less to oppose gravity, and it becomes a bit smaller. Fade to black. (Black dwarf, to be precise.)

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas. It is a yellow dwarf, a mid-sized star, with a lifespan on the order of 10 billion years. Near the end of that time (and this applies to all other mid-sized stars), its outer layers, the only remaining hydrogen, will be heated by the now much hotter core and drift outward (it will subsume Mercury and its heat will boil away the Earth's oceans). Having a much larger surface area and only a slightly higher temperature, the sun's color will darken to red. It will be a red giant. Eventually, it will subsume Venus and Earth, before the outer layers drift away as a planetary nebula.

The core that remains, an ultradense hunk of degenerate matter the size of the Earth, will be a white dwarf. It will be hot -- hot enough to shine white -- but with no fusion to provide additional heat, will gradually (over absurdly long stretches of time) cool and dim into a black dwarf.


Large stars have much shorter lives (their centers packed more tightly, they are hotter and burn through themselves quickly) and much more exciting deaths. After using all their fuel -- that means expending the hydrogen, helium, etc., until only unfusable iron remains -- one will suddenly explode in a supernova. All elements heavier than iron are produced only in supernovae.

The core that remains will collapse -- the pressure of gravity, uncompensated by fusion, will overcome the outward force of the electron shells of the constituent atoms. The electrons will be forced into the nuclei where they will collide with the protons to form neutrons. The star will be a solid blob of neutrons. It will, in effect, be a single gigantic nucleus the size of a city. It will be a neutron star, spinning many times a second. It will be a pulsar.

Or it won't. If it's too big, if it's too heavy, the gravitational field will smash the very neutrons. With nothing to stop it the star will collapse further and further, and as it collapses it will grow smaller and smaller -- and its gravity will therefore become stronger and stronger, in a vicious cycle. Eventually (almost instantaneously, in fact) the pull will be so strong that even light will be unable to escape. The star will have become that most bizarre of stellar phenomena, a black hole.

* Nebulas with a lot of heavier elements (which in practice usually means nebulas created by supernovas) can form planets as well as stars; these begin as diffuse satellite clumps.)

In most cultures, stars signify divine presence less powerful than that of the Sun and the Moon. Female deities such as the Phoenician Astarte, the Babylonian goddess Ishtar (who is represented by an eight-pointed star), the Egyptian Isis, and even Christianity's Virgin Mary,(Stella Maris), are often represented with a crown of stars to verify their position as queens of heaven.

In general, because stars illuminate the dark night sky, they signify spiritual enlightenment, wisdom, and human aspiration towards knowledge. In some cultures, stars are believed to be souls of the dead who have passed from one life to another, and thus have gained cosmic knowledge.

Part of Ascensus Casusque Sigii Sidorum et Aranearum Martis, a project to translate Ziggy Stardust into Latin

Back to Lady StardustForward to Hang On To Yourself


by David Bowie

Tony went to fight in Belfast
Rudi stayed at home to starve
I could make it all worthwhile as a rock ā€˜nā€™ roll star
Bevan tried to change the nation
Sonny wants to turn the world (well, he can tell you that he tried)
I could make a transformation as a rock 'n' roll star

So inviting — so enticing to play the part
I could play the wild mutation as a rock 'n' roll star
Get it all yeah! Oh yeah! (You know that I)
I could do with the money (You know that I)
I'm so wiped out with things as they are (You know that I)
I'd send my photograph to my honey — and I'd come on like a regular superstar

I could make a transformation as a rock 'n' roll star
So inviting — so enticing to play the part
I could play the wild mutation as a rock 'n' roll star
Get it all yeah! Oh, yeah! (You know that I)
I could do with the money (You know that I)
I'm so wiped out with things as they are (You know that I)
I'd send my photograph to my honey — and I'd come on like a regular superstar

I could fall asleep at night as a rock 'n' roll star
I could fall in love all right as a rock 'n' roll star

Rock 'n' roll star, rock 'n' roll star
Just watch me now…


ab D. Bovio

Antonius Angliae ivit ut bella conveniat
Rudia domum mansit ut fame conficatur
Me omnia digna fieri possent ut stella cantuum
Bevanius nationem laboravit mutare
Sonius terra vult vertere (hem, te potest dicere ut laboravit)
Ego posset me mutare ut stella cantuum

Sic suave, sic blandum sit partes agendum
Miro mutatione posset canere ut stella cantuum
Sic omnia adipisci! O, vero! (Id scis!)
Pecunia possem abuti (Id scis!)
Horum ut sunt me taedet (Id scis!)
Ad puellam imagonem transmitterem ā€” et ut stellam maiorem viderer

Me transmutare possem ut stella cantuum
Sic suave, sic blandum sit partes agendum
Miro mutatione posset canere ut stella cantuum
Sic omnia adipisci! O, vero! (Id scis!)
Pecunia possem abuti (Id scis!)
Horum ut sunt me taedet (Id scis!)
Ad puellam imagonem transmitterem ā€” et ut stellam maiorem viderer

Noctu in somno ferre possem ut stella cantuum
Bene in me amorem ferre possem ut stella cantuum

Stella cantuum, stella cantuum
Iam me videatis...

Translation notes

I found this song to be a lot of fun to translate. There was a reasonable amount of reference to modern things, but really nothing that I couldn't translate into Latin. All in all one of the easier songs to translate.

The first paragraph was fun: "Tony went to fight in Belfast" became "Antony went to Anglia to find a fight" — going to the barbarous Northlands to find war is entirely possible in Rome (although it's a bit ironic to send Antony there, if you check your history). I decided that Rudi was probably a woman's name (cp. Rudy), so I made it Rudia, and I even got to use the locative! (How many Romans?)

I had some difficulties with slang, mostly limited to finding an adequate translation of things like "wild mutation." I mostly used muto and transmuto to translate mutate and transform. "So inviting, so enticing" had pretty much exactly the same set of translations (at least in my dictionary), so my choice of suave and blandum is pretty much arbitrary.

One other decision which I made was to translate the "You know that I"s that are clearly audible throughout the song, using "id scis" — you know it! This is interesting to me mainly because "You know that I" isn't actually listed in the lyrics for the song.

It floats

The Star is the oldest current Olympic sailing class. It is a two person keelboat with 26.5m2 of sail area, this is a huge amount of sail at a length of 6.9m. The Star carries two sails, a mainsail and a jib, there is no spinnaker.

Long Gone

The boat was designed in 1911 by Francis Sweisguth and has been Olympic since 1936. Over 8300 boats have been built since it's inception, of which the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association claims 2000 are still actively racing.


The star is one of the few sailboat classes to carry honorary insignia in the sails. The normal insignia of the Star is a red star near the top of the main-sail. Awards are awarded as follows:

Gold star
World or Olympic champion

Silver star
Continental or hemisphere champion

Blue star
district champion

These insignia are the normal 5 pointed stars to be applied to the mainsail, but they are in the colours stated; a captain may keep the honours he earns for the rest of his life. There is also a system with minor honours and chevrons, but those are never used by competing sailors. For spectators and sailors these gold stars are an easy way to differentiate the really good sailors from the other competitors. To these competitors it is often a source of pride to have finished ahead of a gold star sailor, and it may even have a shock-effect to suddenly find oneself in the company of several gold stars while rounding a mark.

The Law

The Star has always been a strictly regulated class, only conservatively adopting new technology. Despite that, the current Star is a reasonably modern fiberglass/epoxy composite boat that has a very long lifespan. Class rules and policy are to limit technological innovation to keep costs down, this keeps older boats and less affluent sailors competitive. For that reason every application of carbon fibre and other modern materials is forbidden.

Keep going

The Star has such a huge amount of sail-area because it was designed for light wind-conditions. This enables it to keep gliding over the water like an elegant swan, even when many larger or lighter boats have fallen still because of lack of wind. This ability of course wreaks itself in stronger winds; it is near impossible to sail a Star in winds over 6 Bft, even for the best of sailors. The Star is therefore less suited to off-shore regattas and at its best with flat water and moderate winds.


I may have given you a toy version of my heart,
but I still had to watch you tear it apart.

Our days together were not long.
You found time to do one hundred things right, but did one hundred things wrong.
You could see the sparks of a nuclear bomb.

My heart will ache and my tears a lake knowing love is not something I'll ever truely make.

To myself I wonder how I could be so disillusioned and I wallow for nights being squandered by confusion.

In those nights the lonely moon painted its light on the sea.
The stars were all that would show me how beautiful the world can be.

I think of the way they'd make you glow, and it makes me sad to know you'll never be mine.

As the sun rises the rays make everything very visible.
The lies and my wrongs turned my child heart cynical.
I was so devoted to the past.
It was the present culmination that was critical.

I woke up to the debris,
realising I had everything I would need.

Stars grow and form from the remainder of a storm.

Star (?), n. [OE. sterre, AS. steorra; akin to OFries. stera, OS. sterro, D. ster, OHG. sterno, sterro, G. stern, Icel. stjarna, Sw. stjerna, Dan. stierne, Goth. sta�xa1;rno, Armor. & Corn. stern, L. stella, Gr. , , Skr. star; perhaps from a root meaning, to seater, Skr. st, L. sternere (cf. Stratum), and originally applied to the stars as beingstrewn over the sky, or as beingscatterers or spreaders of light. 296. Cf. Aster, Asteroid, Constellation, Disaster, Stellar.]


One of the innumerable luminous bodies seen in the heavens; any heavenly body other than the sun, moon, comets, and nebulae.

His eyen twinkled in his head aright, As do the stars in the frosty night. Chaucer.

⇒ The stars are distinguished as planets, and fixed stars. See Planet, Fixed stars under Fixed, and Magnitude of a star under Magnitude.


The polestar; the north star.


3. Astrol.

A planet supposed to influence one's destiny; (usually pl.) a configuration of the planets, supposed to influence fortune.

O malignant and ill-brooding stars. Shak.

Blesses his stars, and thinks it luxury. Addison.


That which resembles the figure of a star, as an ornament worn on the breast to indicate rank or honor.

On whom . . . Lavish Honor showered all her stars. Tennyson.


Specifically, a radiated mark in writing or printing; an asterisk [thus, *]; -- used as a reference to a note, or to fill a blank where something is omitted, etc.

6. Pyrotechny

A composition of combustible matter used in the heading of rockets, in mines, etc., which, exploding of a air, presents a starlike appearance.


A person of brilliant and attractive qualities, especially on public occasions, as a distinguished orator, a leading theatrical performer, etc.

Star is used in the formation of compound words generally or obvious signification: as, star-aspiring, star-bespangled, star-bestudded, star-blasting, star-bright, star-crowned, star-directed, star-eyed, star-headed, star-paved, star-roofed; star-sprinkled, star-wreathed.

Blazing star, Double star, Multiple star, Shooting star, etc. See under Blazing, Double, etc. -- Nebulous star Astron., a small well-defined circular nebula, having a bright nucleus at its center like a star. -- Star anise Bot., any plant of the genus Illicium; -- so called from its star-shaped capsules. -- Star apple Bot., a tropical American tree (Chrysophyllum Cainito), having a milky juice and oblong leaves with a silky-golden pubescence beneath. It bears an applelike fruit, the carpels of which present a starlike figure when cut across. The name is extended to the whole genus of about sixty species, and the natural order (Sapotaceae) to which it belongs is called the Star-apple family. -- Star conner, one who cons, or studies, the stars; an astronomer or an astrologer. Gascoigne. -- Star coral Zool., any one of numerous species of stony corals belonging to Astraea, Orbicella, and allied genera, in which the calicles are round or polygonal and contain conspicuous radiating septa. -- Star cucumber. Bot. See under Cucumber. -- Star flower. Bot. (a) A plant of the genus Ornithogalum; star-of-Bethlehem. (b) See Starwort (b). (c) An American plant of the genus Trientalis (Trientalis Americana). Gray. -- Star fort Fort., a fort surrounded on the exterior with projecting angles; -- whence the name. -- Star gauge Ordnance, a long rod, with adjustable points projecting radially at its end, for measuring the size of different parts of the bore of a gun. -- Star grass. Bot. (a) A small grasslike plant (Hypoxis erecta) having star-shaped yellow flowers. (b) The colicroot. See Colicroot. -- Star hyacinth Bot., a bulbous plant of the genus Scilla (S. autumnalis); -- called also star-headed hyacinth. -- Star jelly Bot., any one of several gelatinous plants (Nostoc commune, N. edule, etc.). See Nostoc. -- Star lizard. Zool. Same as Stellion. -- Star-of-Bethlehem Bot., a bulbous liliaceous plant (Ornithogalum umbellatum) having a small white starlike flower. -- Star-of-the-earth (Bot.), a plant of the genus Plantago (P. coronopus), growing upon the seashore. -- Star polygon Geom., a polygon whose sides cut each other so as to form a star-shaped figure. -- Stars and Stripes, a popular name for the flag of the United States, which consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, alternately red and white, and a union having, in a blue field, white stars to represent the several States, one for each.

With the old flag, the true American flag, the Eagle, and the Stars and Stripes, waving over the chamber in which we sit. D. Webster.

-- Star showers. See Shooting star, under Shooting. -- Star thistle Bot., an annual composite plant (Centaurea solstitialis) having the involucre armed with radiating spines. -- Star wheel Mach., a star-shaped disk, used as a kind of ratchet wheel, in repeating watches and the feed motions of some machines. -- Star worm Zool., a gephyrean. -- Temporary star Astron., a star which appears suddenly, shines for a period, and then nearly or quite disappears. These stars are supposed by some astronometers to be variable stars of long and undetermined periods. -- Variable star Astron., a star whose brilliancy varies periodically, generally with regularity, but sometimes irregularly; -- called periodical star when its changes occur at fixed periods. -- Water star grass Bot., an aquatic plant (Schollera graminea) with small yellow starlike blossoms.


© Webster 1913.

Star (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Starred (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Starring.]

To set or adorn with stars, or bright, radiating bodies; to bespangle; as, a robe starred with gems.

"A sable curtain starred with gold."



© Webster 1913.

Star, v. i.

To be bright, or attract attention, as a star; to shine like a star; to be brilliant or prominent; to play a part as a theatrical star.

<-- i.e., to be the most prominent or one of the two most prominent actors in the cast of a drama or film. -->

W. Irving.


© Webster 1913.

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