Ethan was born in New York City as the son of a Jewish postal worker. He did his undergrad at Northwestern, taught public school in Houston, Texas and Los Angeles, California, before moving to Florida, where he got his PhD in theoretical astrophysics at the University of Florida. After that, he moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he taught at the University of Wisconsin, ate too much cheese, and also met his life partner, Jamie. After working in astrophysics research at the University of Arizona and starting the world-renowned science blog, Starts With A Bang, he moved from the hellish desert to rain-soaked Portland in 2008. Since then, he's been a professor at the University of Portland and Lewis & Clark College, grown a nationally renowned beard and mustache, got invited to join a circus and probably drank more beer than a healthy person should. He currently works as the head curator at Trapit, and can't wait to tell you a little bit more about the Universe.

“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” -Theodore Roosevelt Scientists make mistakes. We fail. We have our intuition lead us astray; we synthesize information in ways that lead to catastrophically wrong predictions. Whether we make sloppy, calculational errors, have oversights in what we consider, or whether we…

“Science progresses best when observations force us to alter our preconceptions.” -Vera Rubin When you look at a galaxy in the night sky, it’s easy to imagine that it’s just a system of masses like our Solar System, except on a larger scale. Instead of a single, central mass, you have many stars responsible for…

“It’s the first time the universe has spoken to us through gravitational waves, up to now we’ve been deaf to them.” -Dave Reitze No doubt about it: the greatest science advance of 2016 was the end of the century-long wait for the first direct detection of gravitational waves. Not only were we able to detect…

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” -Edgar Allan Poe No matter where you look in the night sky, a powerful enough telescope appears to reveal points of light. Even if you find a region with no stars in the Milky…

Comments of the Week #141: Christmas edition

“I think that Walter Schirra aboard Mercury 8 was the first of the astronauts to use the code name ‘Santa Claus’ to indicate the presence of flying saucers next to space capsules.” -Maurice Chatelain Well, here we are: December 25th, Christmas day, here at Starts With A Bang! Whether you’re a Santa, a Scrooge or anywhere in…

“The very closest stars would require many years to visit, even traveling at the speed of light, which is impossible according to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Today’s fastest spaceships would require 200,000 years to travel to Alpha Centauri, our closest bright star. The energy required to send a hundred colonists to another star, as Frank…

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” –Rabindranath Tagore You can’t answer a hypothetical question for certain, at least in science, without doing the experiment for yourself. Here on Earth, liquid water is plentiful; our planet has the stable temperatures and pressures that water needs to exist in its liquid…

“If antimatter and matter make contact, both are destroyed instantly. Physicists call the process ‘annihilation.” -Dan Brown Antimatter is the counterpart to matter: it exists with the same mass, opposite charge, and if ever the two should touch, they annihilate away into pure energy via Einstein’s E = mc^2. But there are a great many properties…

“Just to clarify, neither Jason or myself … are advocating that it is an alien megastructure, but we also can’t completely rule it out.” -Kimberly Cartier When we launched the Kepler spacecraft, we expected that we’d be able to measure the light from over 100,000 stars at once, practically continuously, over the timespan of many…

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.” -Thomas Aquinas Sure, you’ve studied a little physics. You know about Einstein and General Relativity, the quantum nature of the Universe and the fundamental…