Archives for April, 2014

“What you do is, you have your drawing board and a pencil in hand at the telescope. You look in and you make some markings on the paper and you look in again.” -Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto We often make a big distinction between professional and amateur today, and very rarely expect to find amateurs whose…

“All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison.” -Theophrastus Phillipus Auroleus Bombastus von Hohenheim Some scientific topics are so far outside my area of expertise that I need to bring in outside help to do it justice. Today, we’re lucky enough to have a guest…

“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” -Dr. Seuss With 110 objects in the Messier catalogue, and 40 galaxies (more than any other class of object), you…

“Earth as an ecosystem stands out in the all of the universe. There’s no place that we know about that can support life as we know it, not even our sister planet, Mars, where we might set up housekeeping someday, but at great effort and trouble we have to recreate the things we take for…

“I’m a dreamer. I have to dream and reach for the stars, and if I miss a star then I grab a handful of clouds.” -Mike Tyson It’s been another busy but fun week over at the main Starts With A Bang blog, where we’ve gone and looked at: A Flight Without Stars (for Ask…

“If the human condition were the periodic table, maybe love would be hydrogen at No. 1.” -David Mitchell It’s the end of the week, so once again it’s time for Ask Ethan. You’ve sent in your questions and suggestions, and have I got a doozy of a question for this week about the simplest element in…

“One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people’s minds.”  -Frank Zappa I want you to think about your deep, personal convictions. Think about your values, the issues that you feel define you at your core, and your most…

Striking Cosmic Gold (Synopsis)

“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold.” -Bob Marley Going back to ancient times, it’s hard to think of a more commonly coveted element than gold. In fact, trying to transmute other elements into it was perhaps the holy grail of the pseudoscience of alchemy, the forerunner…

“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 Whenever Earth Day comes around, I see a lot of different reactions from people. Some express their passion for the environment, others express disdain for…

“The line that describes the beautiful is elliptical. It has simplicity and constant change. It cannot be described by a compass, and it changes direction at every one of its points.” -Rudolf Arnheim It’s not every day that a nearby, well-studied galaxy turns your understanding of an entire class of common objects — in this…