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“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” -Harry Truman It’s the end of the term here at my college, as well as most colleges across the nation. And while the students are freaking out about finals,…

“We are all captives of the pictures in our head — our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.” -Walter Lippmann For a long time, humans have wondered about life on other worlds, and about worlds around other stars. Until the 1990s, this was mostly speculation and hope. But…

Weekend Diversion: Midori and the Arts

Last night, I had the absolute pleasure to hear Midori, one of the top violinists in the world, play with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. (For those of you wondering, she was spectacular.) What does Midori sound like? Here’s her playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto fifteen years ago with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. While I recognize that…

Weekend Diversion: Goodbye to the Swayze

I’ve got to say, I get some weird things in my head sometimes. I don’t know how many of you know who Vashti Bunyan is, but you may have heard a snippet from one of her songs last year in an NFL commercial. The beautiful, haunting song is called Train Song and it was the…

Want to be a Professional Astronomer?

We need one of those propaganda videos, like the Marines had when I was a kid: Seriously, I remember watching that and actually thinking it would be awesome to be a Marine! (And for those of you who don’t know me that well, I loathe armed conflict.) Well, I’m a scientist. Can’t we do anything…

The Arrow of Time

The laws of physics are the same forwards in time as they are backwards, right? At least, that’s what some physicists will tell you. They have (some) good reasons for saying this. After all, if you watch the planets orbit the Sun, they look like they obey the same laws of physics whether you watch…

A Little Baby… Supernova?

We know, more or less how supernovae work. We’ve seen them just hours after they first go off through telescopes and satellites. The Crab Nebula, also known as M1, was a supernova that went off nearly 1,000 years ago in our own galaxy, for example, and we can simulate pretty well that it formed like…

Hole in the Universe? What Hole?

Some of you who’ve been following astronomy for awhile might remember this report, where a group of astronomers reported finding a giant “void” in the Universe. What is a void? Well, galaxies are distributed pretty randomly, but because of gravity, they cluster together. A small example is our local group which looks like this, and…

A Star with a Napoleon Complex?

No, really, I can hang with the big boys! Although this is usually something we hear from people who are seemingly out of their league, due to diminutive stature, here on Earth: (Muggsy Bogues is awesome.) Apparently, there are stars out there that have the same Napoleon Complex. According to this Press Release, a star…

And on the sixth day…

Good news for science from… the Vatican? No joke. Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory and chief astronomer for the Pope, has just issued a public statement stating the following things: Intelligent beings could exist in outer space. Life on Mars cannot be ruled out. The search for extraterrestrial life does not contradict…