Archives for March, 2011

What are the odds? Part 3: The Big Bang!

“It took less than an hour to make the atoms, a few hundred million years to make the stars and planets, but five billion years to make man!” -George Gamow Some people are never satisfied. After I wrote last time on the odds for cosmic inflation, I started noticing a flurry of comments on an…

Do You Know Your Nearest Star Cluster?

“If it were worth the while to settle in those parts near to the Pleiades or the Hyades, to Aldebaran or Altair, then I was really there, or at an equal remoteness from the life which I had left behind, dwindled and twinkling with as fine a ray to my nearest neighbor, and to be…

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more.” -Lord Byron All over the world, Earth Hour has fallen, and it’s about to, imminently,…

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.” -Frank Zappa Oh yeah, Zappa? Well, let me show you what hydrogen can do! With just…

An Amazing Look at the Northern Lights!

“I came from the country, and when I came to the city, I was ridin’ high, you know. I was seeing more lights than I ever dreamed to shine in the world. ‘Cos where I came from, there wasn’t too many lights. Bugs made a lot of light, but after that there wasn’t no lights.”…

Nuclear Power: Fiction, Fear, and Facts

“And Lord, we are especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest, safest energy source there is. Except for solar, which is just a pipe dream.” -Homer Simpson If you’ve been reading or watching the news, you’ve probably been hearing a whole lot of information about the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. And how the…

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” -Rabbi Hillel As you all know, it has been one week since the devastating earthquake first struck Japan. And the damage is simply horrific. The death toll is in the…

What the Hell is a Supermoon?

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov Ahh, Chekhov, you old sour puss, what do you have against the brilliance of our Moon? Beautiful in our sky, the Moon typically takes up half-a-degree in the night sky, where it’s by far the largest and…

“It is said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But the Universe is the ultimate free lunch.” -Alan Guth We’ve talked about the Big Bang too many times to count, and why it’s easily the leading theory regarding the origin of the Universe. It’s the only cosmic idea we have that can…

Why Physics Gives Us Earthquakes!

“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” -Jeannette Rankin As you all surely know, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake just struck Japan, devastating the island of Honshu. Ask a geologist, and they’ll rightly tell you about plate tectonics, subduction zones, fault lines, and much, much more. But there’s a simple…