Astronomy

Category archives for Astronomy

Eureka: Bridge to Dark Matter

The first time you hear about dark matter, it sounds kind of crazy– asserting that we’re surrounded by tons of invisible stuff is usually a good way to get locked up. But the process of its discovery is surprisingly ordinary: it’s just what you do when you play cards. Here’s the second green-screen video I’ve…

General Relativity With Toddler Toys

A couple of times last week, I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to demonstrate relativity with toddler toys and string. This was an inspiration that hit late on Thursday, when I was trying to think of a better way to explain embedding diagrams (the technical term for those stretched-rubber-sheet pictures that everybody uses…

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…

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…

Uncertain Dots 25: The Lightning Round

I got the time for the regular hangout wrong, and then we had some weird computer difficulties, so we only had ten minutes for Uncertain Dots this week. Which was enough time for me to say disparaging things about comic book movies, so, you know, if that interests you… Here’s the making of Interstellar story…

The Copernicus Complex by Caleb Scharf

I enjoyed Caleb Scharf’s previous book, Gravity’s Engines a good deal, so I was happy to get email from a publicist offering me his latest. I’m a little afraid that my extreme distraction of late hasn’t really treated it fairly, but then again, the fact that I finished it at all in my current state…

Nobel Season 2014

With this morning’s announcement of the 2014 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, the annual Nobel season is upon us. I didn’t do a betting pool post this year, because when I announced last year’s winner, I was reminded that I had never paid off the prize to the previous year’s winner. So I think…

Finding Extrasolar Planets with Lasers

On Twitter Sunday morning, the National Society of Black Physicsts account retweeted this: Using Lasers to Lock Down #Exoplanet Hunting #Space http://t.co/0TN4DDo7LF — ✨The Solar System✨ (@The_SolarSystem) September 28, 2014 I recognized the title as a likely reference to the use of optical frequency combs as calibration sources for spectrometry, which is awesome stuff. Unfortunately,…

The Edge of the Sky by Roberto Trotta

I get a fair number of books to review, but I’m often pretty bad about writing them up in a timely manner. Of course, most of them are well over 70 pages long, which is why I’ve managed to turn around Roberto Trotta’s The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the…

Throwback Thursday

OK, the photo above is a recent picture of me– yesterday, in fact. But the spiral-carved rock I’m standing next to was carved that way a bit more than five thousand years ago, so that ought to count as a throwback… We’ve been in Dublin the last few days, and on Thursday we took a…