Archives for December, 2011

The Entire Universe, One Picture, and One Year

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. -Carl Sagan If the story of our entire Universe’s history, from the last stages of inflation and the Big Bang up to the present day, were to be compressed into one calendar…

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” -Dr. Seuss 2011 has been an amazing year over here. After more than two hundred new posts this year here on Starts With A Bang, where we covered everything from the science of tiny snowflakes to the earliest, farthest and most spectacular galaxies in the Universe,…

And so I’m where, exactly?

“And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?’” -Talking Heads What would you do if you…

Weekend Diversion: The Physics of Santa Claus

(This post first appeared on December 23, 2009, but has been reproduced, edited, and improved for 2011.) 089:32:50 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.] 089:33:38 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. 089:34:16 Lovell: Houston, Apollo 8, over. 089:34:19 Mattingly: Hello, Apollo 8. Loud and clear. 089:34:25 Lovell: Roger. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus. 089:34:31…

“Just as I did some 25 years ago, my graduate student is right now using one of the NOAO telescopes, learning how to do observational astronomy… Closing down one of these observatories in the next few years would likely lead to long term problems with producing adequately prepared astronomers in the future, and they are…

A Holiday Hubble Handout: A Horseshoe?

“A farmer travelling with his load Picked up a horseshoe on the road, And nailed if fast to his barn door, That luck might down upon him pour; That every blessing known in life Might crown his homestead and his wife, And never any kind of harm Descend upon his growing farm.” -James Thomas Fields…

“Continue to surprise those who would put you in a neat demographic. Be insistently curious.” -Gordon Gee Twenty years ago, our Solar System was the only one we knew of that we were certain had planets orbiting around a main-sequence star. Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1995 that the first Extra-Solar Planet (exoplanet) — or…

Weekend Diversion: Rorschach In Real Life!

“None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me! ” -Rorschach, from Watchmen One of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read is Watchmen, created by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins. (Decent movie, too.) One of the things that struck me most about…

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.” -May Sarton It’s unbelievable how much more amazing the world becomes in slow-motion. You’ve probably seen some high speed cameras that shoot at astounding frame rates, such as the video (below) of a…

Goodbye, Galaxies!

“I am undecided whether or not the Milky Way is but one of countless others all of which form an entire system. Perhaps the light from these infinitely distant galaxies is so faint that we cannot see them.” -Johann Heinrich Lambert One of the greatest discoveries of the 20th Century was that many of the…