Astronomy

Category archives for Astronomy

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…

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,…