Ask Ethan

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“Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” -Alfred A. Montapert You might not think of falling into a black hole as a choice, but in the case of this week’s Ask Ethan, someone is choosing to explore exactly that! Imagine, if you will, taking a solid object that’s completely outside of an…

“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” -Mario Andretti One of the toughest things to wrap your mind around in the natural world is the idea of special relativity: the faster you move, the closer you get to the speed of light, the more difficult it becomes to increase your speed at…

“Try to imagine what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up… now try to imagine what it was like to wake up having never gone to sleep.” -Alan Watts Neutron star matter is the stuff of legends: it’s the densest three-dimensional material to exist in our Universe. With a density…

“It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind.” -Albert Einstein On the one hand, we have matter — things with mass — in the Universe, ranging all the way from planets, stars and galaxies on…

“A vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with.” -Tennessee Williams The depiction of dying in space — by exposure to its terrifying vacuum — is incredibly varied, from freezing to swelling and bulging to simply exploding. For this week’s Ask Ethan, we take on…

“It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind.” -Albert Einstein In physics, we’re always on that quest for the next frontier: the next order of magnitude higher in energy, the next order of magnitude closer…

“Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.” -Hermann Minkowski When you think of waves, chances are you think of some type of pressure wave moving through a medium, like sound or water…

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.” -Stephen King, The Dark Tower Ever since quantum mechanics first came along, we’ve recognized how tenuous our perception of reality is, and how — in many ways — what we perceive is just a very small subset of what’s going on at the quantum level in our…

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” -Albert Einstein And yet, this is a very good reason! We need things to happen in stages: you can’t form human beings before you form planets (that would be bad); you can’t form stars before you form atoms (also bad); you can’t form…

“The single most powerful element of youth is our inability to know what’s impossible.” -Adam Braun “I’m going to be a star,” says every clump of matter in a molecular cloud, as it prepares to collapse under the tremendous pull of gravitation. But try as they might, only a small fraction of that gas and…