Archives for October, 2009

Happy Halloween from the Universe!

I had a dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space… –Lord Byron, Darkness Or, in other words, boo! Halloween, believe it or not, is an astronomical holiday! The two solstices and two equinoxes are obvious astronomical holidays, since they correspond…

Setting the Cosmic Distance Record

The farther backwards you can look, the farther forwards you are likely to see. – Winston Churchill Sometimes, we point our most powerful telescopes at the sky, peering as deeply as we possibly can, hoping to shed some light on what the Universe was like oh-so-long ago, as close to the big bang as we…

Q & A: How could a meteor *explode*?

In 1908, a huge fireball streaked across the sky and exploded a few kilometers above the Earth’s surface, downing trees for miles and miles around but leaving no impact crater on the ground. This mystery was known as the Tunguska event. But how did this happen? The amount of energy released was estimated to be…

What is Dark Matter?

Perhaps you’ve been following my ongoing series on dark matter. Perhaps, like many, you’re still skeptical. After all, it’s not like we’ve gone and made it in a lab or discovered it in an experiment. 15 years after David Weinberg composed the Dark Matter Rap, we still don’t know exactly what dark matter is. But…

The Great Ocean of Truth

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.…

Most of the time, I like to showcase some new music to you, or at least music that’s new to me. But this week, I heard an old favorite for the first time in a long time. You’re probably familiar with the Violent Femmes, but you may not have heard anything other than Blister in…

An Awesome Space Slideshow

Seed Magazine (which I’ve written for) has just put out a space slideshow: Traveling Through Time and Stars. Michael Benson gives an account — in words and pictures — of a journey outwards, from nearby stars to nebulae to other galaxies to clusters of galaxies. The pictures alone are worth having a look at. Beautiful?…

How levitation works!

Yesterday, I showed you a video of an amazing incidence of magnetic levitation. There’s another video, courtesy of Matthew Sullivan and his students, that demonstrates this equally as well: What do you need to do to make this happen, and how does it work? First off, you need to design a stable magnetic track. This…

Say Chowdah, Frenchie!

I don’t understand French nearly well enough to understand the explanation in this video, but I was amazed at what the physical world can do when I saw this video. (Video courtesy of Wimp.com.) What’s going on here? Well, you’ve got: a series of bar magnets on the bottom, a ceramic cylinder, an insulating, non-magnetic…

Solar Eruption Video

Ever see a picture of a Solar Prominence before? If you have, you’ll recognize these loop-like features leaving the Sun’s surface and ending up in the Sun’s corona: Well two spacecraft designed to monitor the Sun, Stereo A (which stands for “Ahead” of Earth) and Stereo B (which stands for “Behind”) just imaged a 30-hour…