Archives for October, 2012

The Halloween Horror of the Dark Universe!

“A cosmic mystery of immense proportions, once seemingly on the verge of solution, has deepened and left astronomers and astrophysicists more baffled than ever. The crux … is that the vast majority of the mass of the universe seems to be missing.” -William J. Broad Despite the wondrous, luminous sights of the night sky, we’ve…

Messier Monday: The Pleiades, M45

“Something there is more immortal even than the stars, (Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,) Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter, Longer than sun or any revolving satellite, Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.” -Walt Whitman Last week, we kicked off our very first Messier Monday by spotlighting M1:…

“Where there is no imagination there is no horror.” -Arthur Conan Doyle Halloween, for those of you who’ve been here a while, is my favorite holiday. Every year for the past dozen years now, I’ve dressed up as whatever I’ve wanted for Halloween. And — if you haven’t seen the pattern yet — it’s almost always…

The Science of Predicting the Future

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” -Niels Bohr What’s going to happen next? It’s perhaps the most important thing to know if we want to be prepared for practically anything in our lives. And without even thinking about it, most of us are actually very good at this in a huge number…

What is the Sun made out of?

“The sun is a mass of incandescent gas A gigantic nuclear furnace Where hydrogen is built into helium At a temperature of millions of degrees” -They Might Be Giants It’s so ingrained in us that the Sun is a nuclear furnace powered by hydrogen atoms fusing into heavier elements that it’s difficult to remember that,…

Messier Monday: The Crab Nebula, M1

“This nebula had such a resemblance to a comet in its form and brightness that I endeavored to find others, so that astronomers would not confuse these same nebulae with comets just beginning to shine.” -Charles Messier Let’s take a journey back in time to when our known Universe was a lot smaller. The only…

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” -Pablo Picasso People find artistic inspiration from a plethora of different sources, ranging from the very complex to the extremely simple. This…

The Secret to Writing Your Dissertation

“I spent every night until four in the morning on my dissertation, until I came to the point when I could not write another word, not even the next letter. I went to bed. Eight o’clock the next morning I was up writing again.” -Abraham Pais, physicist You’ve been in graduate school for many years…

Have we reached the end of Particle Physics?

“The particle and the planet are subject to the same laws and what is learned of one will be known of the other.” -James Smithson The entirety of the known Universe — from the smallest constituents of the atoms to the largest superclusters of galaxies — have more in common than you might think. Although…

What Happened Before The Big Bang?

“The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.” -Bertolt Brecht One of the most frequent questions I get about the Universe — as a cosmologist — isn’t quite about the Big Bang in and of itself. The Big Bang is a remarkable…