Astronomy

Category archives for Astronomy

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…

A Rock the Size of Jupiter?

For some reason, the topic of really big rocks came up at dinner the other night, and SteelyKid declared that she wanted to find “A rock as big as the solar system.” We pointed out that that was pretty much impossible, more or less by definition, rocks being sub-parts of the solar system. “OK, how…

Cosmos Reboot Wrap-Up

The Cosmos reboot season finale (or possibly series finale; not sure if they’re trying for a second set of episodes) was last night, but I wasn’t able to take part in the live-tweeting of it thanks to a super-restless Pip who didn’t drop off until 9:30 EDT. I suppose I could’ve waited to start the…

Cosmos and Priorities

While solo-parenting Sunday night, I still managed to get free of The Pip just barely in time to catch the start of Cosmos. This was a strange episode in a couple of ways, chiefly having to do with the selection of topics. For one thing, there’s no small irony in the fact that following a…

This coming fall term, I’ll be teaching Astronomy 052, “Relativity, Black Holes, and Quasars,” because the guy who has traditionally taught it (a radio astronomer who studies active galactic nuclei) has to do other courses instead. But I said “Well, hell, I’ve written a popular audience book explaining relativity. I can teach that.” And since…

Last week’s talks were using sci-fi space travel as a hook to talk about relativity, and my original idea for the talk was to explain how faster-than-light travel ultimately ends up violating causality. Some observers will see effects happening before the events that cause them, and that’s just weird. In How to Teach Relativity to…

Space Travel, Einstein, and GPS

Below you’ll find the slides from my Physics Day presentations at Space Center Houston, embedded via SlideShare. I was doing the TED-style minimal text thing, so they’re probably not all that comprehensible on their own. The event was supposed to have a pop-culture connection, so I decided to use space travel and extrasolar planets as…

Cosmos and the Women

Back when the first episode of the Cosmos reboot aired, somebody put together a composite of the cartoon people who flashed on screen, and we played a guessing game on Twitter. The image above is from a blog post by Meg at True Anomalies, and I think it was probably her, but the ephemeral nature…

Cosmos Reboot Gets Small

A diabolical psychologist brings a mathematician in for an experiment. The mathematician is seated in a chair on a track leading to a bed on which there is an extremely attractive person of the appropriate gender, completely naked. The psychologist explains “This person will do absolutely anything you want, subject to one condition: every five…

Cosmos Reboot: On Light

Another Monday, another recap of a new episode of the Cosmos reboot. This one was all about optics, and much of it was excellent. This was in part due to the fact that its first couple of historical segments focused on non-Western figures, and I don’t know as much about their background to be able…