Physical Science

I didn’t plan to do a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the optics of sending messages with lasers, but then I starting idly thinking about detection, prompted in part by a bunch of conversations with my summer students about single-photon detectors. which led to scribbling on the back of an envelope, which led to Googling,…

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” -Werner Heisenberg You might think there are few sacred quantities when it comes to matter: properties that are so fundamentally inherent that even the weirdness of quantum mechanics can’t touch them. But the quantum nature of the Universe will have none…

Interstellar Laser Communications

In the comments to yesterday’s grumpy post about the Fermi paradox, makeinu raises the idea that advanced aliens would be using more targeted communications than we do: On the point about electromagnetic communications: even we are now using lasers to target communications with space, because it’s simply more efficient and reliable. It’s also basically impossible…

“Since stars appear to be suns, and suns, according to the common opinion, are bodies that serve to enlighten, warm, and sustain a system of planets, we may have an idea of the numberless globes that serve for the habitation of living creatures.” -William Herschel When you look up at the stars in the night…

Fermi Fallacies

I’ve seen a bunch of people linking approvingly to this piece about the “Fermi paradox,” (the question of why we haven’t seen any evidence of other advanced civilizations) and I can’t quite understand why. The author expends a good deal of snark taking astronomers and physicists to task for constructing elaborate solutions to Fermi paradox…

The Mumbling Philosopher

The physics vs. philosophy slow-motion blogfight continues, the latest major contribution being Sean Carroll’s “Physicists Should Stop Saying silly Things About Philosophy. I’ve been mostly trying to stay out of this, but when I read through the comments at Sean’s post to see if anybody offered any specific examples of problems that could’ve been avoided…

The Hurricane may (or may not) directly strike the Outer Banks.) I’ve updated the title of the post to update concern that Hurricane Arthur has a much increased chance of directly striking coastal regions in North Carolina. Scroll down to the most recent update below to find out more. I’m adding updates to a single…

“In a word, in the eyes of a giant, to whom our Suns were what our atoms are to us, the Milky Way would only look like a bubble of gas.” -Henri Poincaré When it comes to the wonders of the night sky, it seems like no matter what direction you look in, if you…

Maybe yes, maybe no. Good chance, yes. It is too early to call, but the blob I mentioned the other day has turned into a spiral and is starting to get organized. Forecasters at NOAA think there is an 80% chance this low pressure phenomenon will be a tropical storm by the 4th of July.…

“Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn.” -John Wesley There’s nothing quite like a fire on a temperate summer’s night, as John Fahey will play for you in his rendition of a Mississippi Fred McDowell classic, Keep Your Lamps Trimmed & Burning. But I bet you never thought of…