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“Illusion is the first of all pleasures.” -Oscar Wilde It’s tough to tell fact from fiction, and sometimes just as hard to tell reality from illusion. As long as you’re enjoying yourself this weekend, I’d have to agree with Buckwheat Zydeco, and say Let The Good Times Roll. But despite what these images you’re looking…

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” -Albert Einstein The Mars Curiosity Rover and the Mars Science Laboratory mission are so important that writing about the landing, going on the news, and writing about it again simply wasn’t enough. So when the Portland Tribune called…

Your First Year in Physics Grad School

Teacher Writes on Blackboard: “The Method of Guessing” Student: “What! There’s a method???????” Teacher: “Yeah, there’s even a proof!” -overheard in a physics grad school As a physics professor, one of the challenges I face is how to advise young students nearing the end of their undergraduate career on how to succeed in graduate school…

“There was an old man with a beard, Who said: ‘It is just as I feared! Two owls and a hen, Four larks and a wren Have all built their nests in my beard!” -Edward Lear No better song for this week than an early, live version of Jeff Tweedy‘s Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard.Some of…

Hubble for the Holidays: Have a Cigar!

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the Universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” -Edwin Hubble I promised you, this week, we’d be taking a look at the power of the Hubble Space Telescope. Yesterday, we looked at Eta Carinae, but today, I decided to look a little farther. Have a listen to…

“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…