Physical Science

Quick Interstellar Thoughts

I’m teaching a Gen Ed course on relativity this term, which means I’m spending the last few weeks of the term discussing black holes. Which, in turn, means there was no way I couldn’t use that story about Kip Thorne calculating the appearance of a black hole for the movie. Especially since I have the…

“In my dreams and visions, I seemed to see a line, and on the other side of that line were green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white ladies, who stretched out their arms to me over the line, but I couldn’t reach them no-how. I always fell before I got to the line.” -Harriet…

Happy Pip Day

Exactly three years ago today, The Pip arrived, in a manner that will allow him to kill Macbeth should that become necessary. This is the age where kids first become aware of the concept of birthdays, so he’s just a tiny bit excited about this. He’s a fast-developing Little Dude, chattering more and more every…

Testing the Multiverse

Here’s an interesting article from Quanta. It’s about efforts by physicists to test the idea of the multiverse: If modern physics is to be believed, we shouldn’t be here. The meager dose of energy infusing empty space, which at higher levels would rip the cosmos apart, is a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion…

“It is not when truth is dirty, but when it is shallow, that the lover of knowledge is reluctant to step into its waters.” -Friedrich Nietzsche Out beyond Neptune, the last of our Solar System’s gas giants, the icy graveyard of failed planetesimals lurks: the Kuiper Belt. Among these mixes of ice, snow, dust and…

I’m teaching relativity in a course with an astronomy prefix, which means I’m obliged to talk about stars and stuff. Yesterday’s lecture was about neutron stars, and how their existence was confirmed by the discovery of pulsars (with the story of Jocelyn Bell Burnell included). This requires some discussion of angular momentum to explain how…

Nature is not symmetric (Synopsis)

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” -Jean-Luc Picard We like to think of nature as beautiful, elegant and infallible. Yet our notions of what’s beautiful and elegant don’t always line up with what reality gives us. Take the notion of symmetry, for example:…

The Physics of Wormholes (Synopsis)

If you wanted to travel to the stars — and by that, I mean star systems beyond our own — you’d better be prepared to take your sweet time. Even at the speeds the Apollo astronauts traveled to the Moon, it would take millions of years to reach even the next nearest star beyond our own,…

Sure, the Big Bang is great. Going back to very early times, it tells us the Universe was in a hot, dense state, where even the possibility of forming neutral atoms was impossible due to the incredible energies of the Universe at that time. The patterns of fluctuations that are left over from that time…

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.” -Neil Gaiman When you consider the short life of a star cluster — from a collapsing molecular cloud to a nebula rich in gas and dust to a…