Ask Ethan

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“From earliest times, humans — explorers and thinkers — have wanted to figure out the shape of their world. Forever, the way we’ve done that is through storytelling. It is difficult to let the truth get in the way of a good story.” -Adam Savage When we look back into the Universe, there’s a wonderful, remarkable story that it…

Ask Ethan #53: What is the Big Rip? (Synopsis)

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?” -Haruki Murakami Of all the ways our Universe can end —…

“After all the ‘Universe’ is a hypothesis, like the atom, & must be allowed the freedom to have properties & to do things which would be contradictory & impossible for a finite material structure.” -Willem de Sitter Dark energy was one of the biggest surprises to come along in the past generation, from a scientific…

“Es ist immer angenehm, über strenge Lösungen einfacher Form zu verfügen.” (It is always pleasant to have exact solutions in simple form at your disposal.) -Karl Schwarzschild The Universe is a vast and complex place, full of a diversity of structure from the smallest scales to the largest. And yet, by many accounts, it’s a…

“Whenever you have infinities in a theory, that’s where the theory fails as a description of nature. And if space was born in the Big Bang, yet is infinite now, we are forced to believe that it’s instantaneously, infinitely big. It seems absurd.” -Janna Levin Of course, we don’t believe space was born in the Big…

“In my better sense of mind, I know that I’m far from alone and far from the worst, and the earth keeps spinning. Everything keeps moving, with or without me.” -Phil Anselmo The Universe is a chaotic place, where nothing truly exists in isolation. Even if, at the moment of the Big Bang, nothing in…

“Ignorance is hardly unusual, Miss Davar. The longer I live, the more I come to realize that it is the natural state of the human mind. There are many who will strive to defend its sanctity and then expect you to be impressed with their efforts.” -Brandon Sanderson At the risk of inflaming everyone who…

“You can observe a lot by just watching.” -Yogi Berra Sure, the quantum Universe is a little bit spooky. Things that we’re used to being “determined” here in the macroscopic world, like where a particle will end up if you throw it, aren’t so simple if we head on down to subatomic scales. While you…

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” -Dr. Seuss For almost a year now, you’ve all been sending in your questions and suggestions to me, and I’ve been picking my favorite one of the week for Ask Ethan, our weekly Q&A series.…

“One has to be an optimist; one has to hope that somewhere there’ll be new measurements to be made and that they will open up new vistas for us theorists to play with.” -Jim Peebles It was one of the most hotly contested questions for decades: we first expected and then found supermassive black holes at…