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A new view on the Horsehead Nebula

Ever seen the Horsehead Nebula? If you look at the easternmost star in Orion’s Belt through a telescope, you’re likely to see something like this (the star is just off the image to your left): A pretty little nebula, to be sure, but it doesn’t look all that spectacular. I mean really, there’s a fancy…

The youngest planet ever discovered?

Starts with a bang reader Dumb Ass Dave points us to this BBC article about the discovery of a planet that’s only just forming around a new star. The planet is surely less than 100,000 years old, although the 1,600 year old figure quoted in the article is probably hogwash. How do you find it?…

…and then they came for me!

There’s a movie coming out on Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, called Expelled, and it’s narrated/hosted by Ben Stein (right), a TV/film personality who is an overall intelligent guy (and used to have the TV show Win Ben Stein’s Money), and used to be a Nixon speechwriter. Politically, he’s quite conservative (for example, immediately following…

Will Physicists Find God?

WARNING: Sensationalism ahead! Are you kidding me, Newsweek? They really titled their article Will Physicists Find God? Presumably, the title is named because physicists are searching for the Higgs Particle, and the title is taken after Leon Lederman’s (mediocre, IMO) book, The God Particle. Leon’s a pretty humorous guy, and was told by his Editor…

On the Survival of Humanity

This is some very basic biology: when resources are unlimited and there are no pressures on a species, its population grows exponentially. There’s also no evolution other than random mutations; without selection pressures (regardless of whether it’s natural or artificial), the genetic information content of a species doesn’t change appreciably. Biologists make use of this…

How much better are cameras?

Cameras, CCDs, prisms, grisms, etc., are all some of the instruments that can go on top of telescopes to help us see things better. We haven’t really increased the size of telescopes so much as we have the quality and ability of the apparatus that go atop them. Take a look at various pictures I’ve…

Brightest thing ever?

Those of you who keep up with your news may have seen this headline on CNN last week: Star Explodes Halfway Across Universe. What they’re talking about is a Gamma-Ray Burst, which was so bright that, despite being 7.5 billion light years (that’s 2.3 Gpc) away, it was still visible on Earth with the naked…

Weekend Diversion: Jessie and Slater?

Remember the TV show Saved By The Bell? It was a high school comedy that was popular when I was in Junior High, and it was, of course, completely preposterous and cheesy. Like what you’d get if you married Beverly Hills: 90210 with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and then cleaned it up to make…

The Cosmic Background Radiation

This was the third and final piece of the puzzle that led to the acceptance of the Big Bang and the rejection of all alternatives: the discovery of the background radiation left over from the Big Bang. The “leading theory” before this was discovered was the Steady-State theory. Sure, they knew of Hubble Expansion. But…

The Abundance of Light Elements

This is the second key prediction of the Big Bang: the Universe was, before any stars formed, made up of about 75% Hydrogen and 25% Helium, and much less than 1% of all other elements combined. How does the Big Bang predict this, and how to we observe it? Well, remember we said the Universe…