Physical Science

“It took less than an hour to make the atoms, a few hundred million years to make the stars and planets, but five billion years to make man!” -George Gamow Whenever Earth Day comes around, I see a lot of different reactions from people. Some express their passion for the environment, others express disdain for…

“The line that describes the beautiful is elliptical. It has simplicity and constant change. It cannot be described by a compass, and it changes direction at every one of its points.” -Rudolf Arnheim It’s not every day that a nearby, well-studied galaxy turns your understanding of an entire class of common objects — in this…

“All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.” -Robert Louis Stevenson It’s been another wonderful week in the Universe, and there’s been so much to share together. New this week on the main Starts With A Bang blog over at Medium, we’ve talked about: Are our…

“Iron helps us play!” -The Simpsons If you were to peel back the layers of a supermassive star, before it went supernova, what you’d find were a slew of layers abundant in the even-numbers elements up to iron, but little else. Well, this weekend, have I got a fun little find for you! First off, enjoy the…

Cats beware…

The FDA has issued a warning that Easter lilies are toxic to cats. According to veterinarian Dr. Melanie McLean at the US Food and Drug Administration ingestion of even a small portion of the leaves, pollen or flowers of the plant are very poisonous to cats. Initial complications include vomiting but then may lead to…

“Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.” -Ludwig Wittgenstein You know how bad light pollution is for astronomy, and how hard we try to escape it. We search for…

In Which I Read Hard Science Fiction

Astonishingly, in the last few weeks, I’ve actually found time to read some– gasp– novels. In particular, I finished two books that probably belong in the “Hard SF” genre: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias and Lockstep by Karl Schroeder. Both Jim and Karl are people I’ve met many times at cons; I’ve enjoyed…

“Other than the laws of physics, rules have never really worked out for me.” -Craig Ferguson When you think about the Standard Model of particle physics, you very likely think about all the matter, energy, particles, antiparticles, forces and interactions of the Universe. And you might legitimately worry that this is all there is. Never fear; it can’t…

Distant Cousins: Kepler-186f

Big Eyed Beans from Venus – Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band! Cool. Literally Comparable to Mars in effective temperature, bit larger than Earth, probably slightly more massive than Earth (mean density could be lower), atmosphere unknown. Might well have extensive surface regions with persistent liquid water.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I do a lot of work these days in my local Starbucks. This is slightly ironic, as I don’t like coffee– instead, I order tea, which I put in an insulated travel mug. I tend to get the tea, carry the mug back to the table, and let it steep…