Astronomy

Category archives for Astronomy

Eureka: Waldo at the Galaxy Zoo

Over at Medium, they’ve published a long excerpt from Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, that gives a good flavor of what the book’s really like. It’s about how the process for solving hidden-object games like the classic Where’s Waldo books is comparable to the process used by Henrietta Leavitt to revolutionize our understanding of the…

Speaking of the timing of astronomical phenomena, as we were yesterday, the timing of celestial bodies was the key to the first demonstration of one of the pillars of modern physics, the fact that light travels at a finite speed. This actually pre-dates yesterday’s longitude discoveries, which I always forget, because it seems like it…

Returning to our mostly-chronological ordering after yesterday’s brief excursion, we come to one of the great problems of the 1700’s, namely determining the longitude at sea. Latitude is easy to find, based on the height of the Sun at noon– we told that story last week– but longitude is much trickier. Thanks to the rotation…

The final step of the scientific process is to share your results with others, and that’s the step where things are most prone to breaking down. Countless great discoveries have been delayed or temporarily lost because the people who made them were more concerned with protecting “their” secrets than with sharing new knowledge with the…

“More wine?” “Hmm? Oh, yes, thank you. Sorry, I was–” “Thinking about mathematics, I wager. Prime numbers was it?” “No, just distracted. It’s this blasted heat.” “It is the longest day of the year.” “Yes, but normally not so hot.” “Especially here. You think this is hot, visit me in Syene sometime. You think it…

The southeastern sky had been lightening for some time, stars slowly fading away. Off to the west, a band of clouds was moving in, obscuring stars as it came, but they wouldn’t make it in time to block the sunrise. A good thing, as the last two dawns had been cloudy. There would be maybe…

PNAS: Asad Aboobaker, Thermal Engineer

I’ve decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the “standard” academic science track. Sixth in…

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…