Astronomy

Category archives for Astronomy

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…

Cosmos F*$&ing Loves Science

The fourth episode of the Cosmos reboot aired last night, and as I said on Twitter it was a beautiful demonstration of why I’m finding this show intensely frustrating. There were flashes of brilliance, but also quite a few bits that left me shaking my head. Thus fitting the pattern of the previous episodes– I…

Review and Replication

So, there was this big story in cosmology the other day– Tom Levenson’s write-up is very nice– which has been hailed as one of the greatest discoveries since the last greatest discovery, blah, blah, blah. And now that a few days have passed, we’re starting to see the inevitable backlash, ranging from detailed technical analyses…

Science at Bedtime

“Daddy? How do you make water?” “You mean, what is it made of?” “Yeah, what’s water made of?” “Hydrogen and oxygen.” “Oh. And what’s hydrogen and oxygen?” “They’re chemical elements.” “So, when we drink water, we’re drinking chemicals?” “Well, yeah. In a sense, everything is chemicals. Water’s a chemical, air is made of chemicals. ”…

Cosmos Reboot, Episode 2

This week’s Cosmos was all about the evolution of life, and was viewed by millions of people outside of Oklahoma, where they presumably got an hour-long local news promo, or analysis of the Oklahoma State’s chances in the NCAA Tournament. As such, it was a bit outside my area of expertise, but that never stopped…