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On String Theory from a String Theorist

Bret Underwood, a friend of mine from my time in Madison, WI, saw my post on String Theory, and took issue with my statement that it wasn’t testable. I’m still standing behind what I said, but let’s address what Bret has to say. I don’t understand your argument above for why string theory is untestable.…

Why are Brown Dwarfs so Dim?

Ahh, stars. Giant furnaces of nuclear fusion. Doing the stuff our Sun does, burning hydrogen fuel into helium (among other things) and emitting lots of visible light and energy in the process. But when we take a look at brown dwarfs, they aren’t like normal (i.e., main sequence) stars like our Sun. Instead of burning…

Telescopes 100 Years Ago: A Story

I was doing a little research into the history of telescopes, and it was about a century ago that they finally realized how much more potential light-gathering power reflecting telescopes had as compared to the older refracting telescopes. On Mt. Wilson in California, astronomer George Ellery Hale and optician George Willis Ritchey (back then everybody…

Q & A: On String Theory

Over the past few months, I have been asked a number of questions about String Theory and the Universe, including from readers Benhead and Mastery Mistery. But now Jamie, whom I’m going to marry later this year, has been asking me about it, and so it’s time to write something about the scientific topic of…

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…