Ask Ethan

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“Biological diversity is messy. It walks, it crawls, it swims, it swoops, it buzzes. But extinction is silent, and it has no voice other than our own.” -Paul Hawken Looking at the history of life on Earth, the fossil record shows something incontrovertible: in order for new forms of life to rise to dominance, it…

“Do not look at stars as bright spots only. Try to take in the vastness of the universe.” -Maria Mitchell The analogies between small-scale, living things and large-scale, cosmic entities are abundant: between a neuron and the Universe’s large-scale structure; between an atom and a solar system; between the stars in a galaxy and the…

“Einstein’s gravitational theory, which is said to be the greatest single achievement of theoretical physics, resulted in beautiful relations connecting gravitational phenomena with the geometry of space; this was an exciting idea.” -Richard P. Feynman When Einstein’s theory was first proposed as an alternative to Newtonian gravity, there were a number of subtle but important…

“In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden. The damage is far greater than photographs can show.” -Wilfred Burchett The news has been aflame with reports that North Korea detonated…

“Oh, yes — I know you. There was a time you looked at the stars and dreamed of what might be.” -Star Trek: Nemesis, spoken by Jean-Luc Picard The stars call to us through the ages, with each and every one holding the promise of a future for humanity beyond Earth. For generations, this was…

“They say it all started out with a big bang. But, what I wonder is, was it a big bang or did it just seem big because there wasn’t anything else drown it out at the time?” -Karl Pilkington Looking out at the distant stars, galaxies and radiation in the Universe today, we’ve been able…

“…in every kind of chemical change no loss of matter occurs […] in all the varied modes of physical change, no loss of energy takes place.” -Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe When it comes to the physical laws of the Universe, perhaps the most unbreakable of all seems to be the law of conservation of energy. In every…

“The farther we peer into space, the more we realize that the nature of the universe cannot be understood fully by inspecting spiral galaxies or watching distant supernovas. It lies deeper.” -Robert Lanza When you take a look at a spiral galaxy in the night sky, it seems obvious that the stars on the inner…

“Maybe that is our mistake: maybe there are no particle positions and velocities, but only waves. It is just that we try to fit the waves to our preconceived ideas of positions and velocities. The resulting mismatch is the cause of the apparent unpredictability.” -Stephen Hawking Black holes are the densest, most compact objects in…

“We are not like the social insects. They have only the one way of doing things and they will do it forever, coded for that way. We are coded differently, not just for binary choices, go or no-go. We can go four ways at once, depending on how the air feels: go, no-go, but also…