Archives for August, 2009

The Math of the Fastest Human Alive

Last year, while watching the Beijing Olympics, I was blown away by how much faster Usain Bolt was than everybody else: He became the first man to run the 100 meter dash in under 9.7 seconds. Now, I thought, that’s really, really fast. But then, just a few days ago, there was a race between…

Rounding up the best from CoS #116

This week’s Carnival of Space introduced me to a new site, Habitation Intention. As always, the collection of space-related stories from around the ‘net is worth checking out, and I’ve got my top three picks for you. 1. Goodbye, Moon and Mars! What, you thought that my opinion was shared by many? That we’d find…

A Meteorite on Mars

About four months ago, the Mars Rover Opportunity was driving around Mars at about 50% power, as five years of accumulated Martian dust on its solar panels was disastrously affecting its ability to acquire power: But a fortuitous, powerful gust of wind knocked much of the dust off, boosting Opportunity’s power by about 40%. Because…

Weekend Diversion: How to Argue

Sometimes, things happen that either: I don’t agree with, I have different information than other people (sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes just different), or need to be spoken out against, and that’s when it’s time to argue. Sometimes, there’s no way around it, and I need to put myself out there, and make the best…

The Math of the Expanding Universe

Okay. Yesterday, I explained to you that the only thing that determines how the Universe expands is the amount of energy density in it. But many of you wanted more details. So, by popular demand — including one insistence that there is no equation that tells us how the Universe expands — here is the…

What Makes the Universe Expand?

So, the Universe started with a bang. Everything was hot, dense, and expanding. It’s 13.7 billion years later now, and our Universe is cold and sparse. The temperature of the leftover glow from the big bang — which used to be over 10^30 degrees — is now down to 2.7 Kelvin, just barely above absolute…

Hell Yeah, Hubble!

It wasn’t all that long ago that I wrote a five-part series on Hubble’s old camera, WFPC2. I call it “The Camera that Changed the Universe.” Part 1 focused on Hubble showing us just how deep, rich, and full of wonder our Universe is. Let’s remember how this happened. The first thing we did was…

Suck it, Ptolemy!

When you go outside at night, on a clear night away from all lights, you see the sky the same way the ancients did: full of stars. Now, if you looked up periodically, you would find that the sky appears to rotate! Some constellations rise while others set, and one point — either due north…

Carnival of Space #115

This week’s Carnival of Space comes from New Frontier News, which has the oddest banner I’ve seen on a serious science website in a while: The top three entries this week? As chosen, fairly arbitrarily, by me? 1. Pluto: planet or not? Apparently, the IAU got together again, for the first serious meeting since declassifying…

Get Up Early This Wednesday!

There’s a good reason for it, I promise! Allow me to explain. You see, every so often, a comet zooms in from the Kuiper Belt. As it approaches the Sun, it heats up, displaying a spectacular tail. What is this “tail” actually? It’s tiny, tiny fragments of ice and rock that make up the comet.…