A Note To My Readers

Dear Reader(s):

This is Ethan, and I’m writing this to you to let you know that I owe you an apology. I have gotten so excited with the idea of bringing the story of the Universe to you — to tell you how we got from the birth of the Universe to the present day, to tell you what the world, galaxy, and Universe is like and how it got to be that way — that I’ve gotten carried away.

You deserve the story, because it’s wonderful and beautiful. You deserve the story, because it’s something specialized and complicated, and it’s something that I happen to have studied, hard, for the last seven years. But really, you deserve it because you want to know, and because I want to tell you. But I’ve been reading over what I’ve been writing the last couple of weeks, and I’ve gotten carried away. And my writing has been too technical and too detailed, like I’ve been writing it for other scientists, physicists, astronomers, and mathematicians. When all along, my audience, the people I want to reach, is you. Is the people who are interested, curious, smart, but not experts. People who have other, important things to do with their lives than spend all their time and energy on understanding the Universe.

And so I am making a promise to you, dear reader, that that is the story I will bring you, and that is what I’m going to strive for. I ask you to help me with this — tell me what you want to know — and I’ll answer your questions. If you want technical details, that’s what comments are for. But I’m going to do my best to tell you, simply and articulately, what we know and how we know it, and to keep it as simple as that.

And I apologize to you for straying from that mission. In exchange for your charity, I present to you my puppy dog, Cordelia, exploring an above-ground pool! Cordelia was a feral dog whom we rescued from the Humane Society, and have worked so hard with to get her better socialized and to become trusting of humans and other dogs, as well as just to see her happy. I think the pictures tell you how she’s doing…

Come on, little one, you can get in there…

But be careful! It’s wet, and so it’s slippery! Oh, your paws are so little…

But don’t worry; Jamie will coax you in with a little bit of food!

So there’s a little window into my home life for you. I look forward to getting a little window into what I can do for you, and how I can help bring the amazing story of where we are today and how we got to be here to you; let me know how I can help!


  1. #1 dave
    April 28, 2008

    The spine. I want to know about the spine. I know you are not that kind of PHD but still……. I’ve had back problems (nothing horrible, but nagging and irritating none the less) most of my adult life. I see the Chiropractor’s office full of others in the same boat. It seems to me if we were “intelligently” designed that we might have a more efficient, and less troubling, method of uprightedness…. given the way the spine is constucted isn’t it possible that we were not “made” to walk upright??
    We get told all the time to use our legs to lift and to squat instead of leaning over at the waist but isn’t it perfectly “natural” to lean at the waist to pick something up??


  2. #2 Zrinka
    April 28, 2008

    Ethan, first of all Cordelia is simply adorable and thanks for sharing this part of your life with all of us 🙂 She is a happy dog!

    I agree with you that some of your recent posts were too technical and too detailed, especially for my level of knowledge. Maybe such posts can be simply part of some new category on the site, for readers who completely understand such things just like you do.

    I would be happy that you answer me this: “Why do we see the same side of the Moon?” (I’m just listening an old Pink Floyd album: Dark Side of the Moon) 🙂

  3. #3 Matt
    April 28, 2008

    I really like your technical and detailed posts! Since I read the more common stuff in popular science books/Scientific American/blogs most of the time, it’s very refreshing to get a deeper view of the subject and I think you’re doing a great job. (:
    While I have to admit that the more casual reader may have trouble understanding ALL that is said, the gist of your posts is crystal clear. And look at it this way: There are a lot of sources for the lay audience, but you hardly find sources that go beyond the basics which are still easily understood. It’s great to have someone around who tackles the important issues of astronomy/astrophysics/cosmology on this deeper level.

    That being said, I really enjoy your blog and look forward to more intriguing posts! (and don’t hold back details which you consider to be very important!)

  4. #4 ethan
    April 28, 2008

    Thanks for the feedback so far! Dave, I took your suggestion and your post on the spine is up.

    Zrinka, I like your question and I’ll talk about it soon.

    Matt, thanks for the comments! It’s very difficult to find a balance between being entertaining and interesting while still having something of uncommon value to give to you. Where you read it because you’re interested in what you’re reading, and then at the end say, “Wow, I really learned something new from that!”

    I’ll keep working at it; don’t be afraid to let me know when I get too detailed or not detailed enough — it’s your feedback that lets me make this site better!

  5. #5 Brian
    April 29, 2008

    Ethan, I don’t find your blog too technical at all. On the contrary, you’re very skilled at weaving jargon in with normal speech in such a way that’s understandable to most people. One minor issue I’ve had with some of your non-astrophysics posts are that you sometimes given the impression that you’re an expert on a topic for which you really have very little specialized experience (geology, biology, etc.).

  6. #6 ethan
    April 29, 2008

    Thanks, Brian; it’s good to have that feedback from someone else with scientific experience in a different field than I have. You’re unlikely to find my writing too technical, but how would you have found it 10 years ago? I’ll keep on trying to make it better!

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