Astronomy

Category archives for Astronomy

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…

Right around the time I shut things down for the long holiday weekend, the Washington Post ran this Joel Achenbach piece on mistakes in science. Achenbach’s article was prompted in part by the ongoing discussion of the significance (or lack thereof) of the BICEP2 results, which included probably the most re-shared pieces of last week…

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,…

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…