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.

“First, you should check out my house. It’s, like, kinda lame, but way less lame than, like, your house.” –Lumpy Space Princess, Adventure Time When you visualize our Universe today, you probably think about the great clumps of matter — planets, stars, galaxies and clusters — separated by huge distances. But on the largest of…

“Aristotle taught that stars are made of a different matter than the four earthly elements — a quintessence — that also happens to be what the human psyche is made of. Which is why man’s spirit corresponds to the stars. Perhaps that’s not a very scientific view, but I do like the idea that there’s a little starlight in…

“Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow And yet, not all meteors nor all meteor showers are created equal. Some showers are duds, with the meteors being infrequent, inconsistent, short-lived and dim. Hardly worth mentioning. On…

“Studying whether there’s life on Mars or studying how the universe began, there’s something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. That’s something that is almost part of being human, and I’m certain that will continue.” –Sally Ride When you travel some hundred-million kilometers through space to land, softly, on another world, you deserve…

“I’d rather create a miniature painting than a Taj Mahal of a book.” –Mohsin Hamid Life is big and intimidating in a lot of ways, but sometimes it’s the small things that make us feel the most vulnerable, powerful, fragile or alive. Have a listen to KT Tunstall as she sings her song, Miniature Disasters, while you consider…

“The specific moral is that within the standard model the [cosmic microwave background] temperature is a key parameter in fixing the thermal and dynamical history of the Universe. The measurement of this parameter made physical cosmology much more definite, and the detection of the radiation made the Big Bang cosmology a good deal more credible.”…

“All enterprises that are entered into with indiscreet zeal may be pursued with great vigor at first, but are sure to collapse in the end.” –Tacitus If you want to form a structure like a planet, star or black hole, you need a large amount of mass together in one place. The way to bring…

“The radiation left over from the Big Bang is the same as that in your microwave oven but very much less powerful. It would heat your pizza only to -271.3°C, not much good for defrosting the pizza, let alone cooking it.” –Stephen Hawking Imagine you traveled out into empty space. Away from any and all…

“We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” –W. Somerset Maugham This past Monday (thanks, PJ), I celebrated the completion of my 37th orbit around the Sun. This is something we all have the opportunity…

When it comes to the definition of “genius,” everything is relative, right? When a particularly bright young person performs an amazing feat of intellect or scores incredibly well on a standardized test like an IQ exam or the SAT, we often herald them with excessive praise, calling them “the next Einstein” or even “smarter than…