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Tag / science

Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot sermon, animated

In 1990 the Voyager I spacecraft was leaving our solar system, and at Carl Sagan’s suggestion the mission team had it turn and take a photo of Earth from 4 billion miles away — the ultimate long-distance selfie. That’s us in that photo, that tiny speck of  reflected light near the top — a pale blue […]

Standing on the edge of the known

A recent episode of the Nerdist podcast featured physicist Brian Cox, who hosts his own entertaining and enlightening podcast, The Infinite Monkey Cage. I listened to most of this episode of the Nerdist while walking my dog last night. The podcast was a fascinating conversation between regular humans and a super smart scientist who has […]

The merits of doubt

As I was trying to wake up my 7-year-old for school this morning, I reminded her that today is St. Patrick’s Day. That got her attention, and she asked if I thought leprechauns were real. Apparently, there’s been talk at her school this week about leprechauns making mischief. Without giving it much thought, I just […]

Richard Feynman: “This is not yet a scientific age”

The irrepressible Professor Feynman, a poetic scientist of the highest order, was speaking in the 20th century. Even now this statement holds, though there seems to me more optimism for an approaching age of widespread wonder based on the sharpening image of our ever more awe-inspiring universe.

“Of course we might be wrong, but…”

From an interview on TheVerge.com with Brian Cox, the physicist and science superstar and host of the entertaining BBC radio show/podcast, The Infinite Monkey Cage: Science is often presented as being dogmatic, when actually it’s the opposite of that. I’m just writing a new book actually, with a colleague of mine Jeff Forshaw at Manchester […]

Andromeda rising

This merits full screen. It’s a great video highlighting the most recent wonder from the Hubble Space Telescope, a stunning view into the galaxy nearest ours. The density of stars in this image of just a portion of just one galaxy is incredible. And watch till the end of the video to appreciate the context. […]

Sunday evening Stoic: Wash off the mud

Meditations 7.47: Of course, you do revolve with the stars. And, our view of the stars and the perspective they provide has magnified profoundly since the second century when the emperor wrote those words. The image in the slide above is the latest bit of wonder from the Hubble space telescope. It’s an incredible new […]

Our star-filled neighborhood

  This photo of the Milky Way by astrophotographer Robert Gendler is stunning: Click on this photo to enlarge it for full awesomeness and existential stupefaction. Phil Plait wrote about it on his site yesterday. Look into what seems like a cloud and realize you’re looking at countless individual stars and their glow. How tightly packed these stars […]

The Fermi Paradox and our place in the universe

What is the more disorienting, confounding possibility? That Earth is the only source of intelligent life in this massive and intricately complex universe, or that we are only one of many intelligent species scattered across the countless galaxies? WaitButWhy.com has a magnificent explanation of the Fermi Paradox. It’s complicated. Go read it and ponder this […]

Asking unanswerable questions

Ann Druyan, writer and executive producer of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, in a recent interview: I have no problem asking the unanswerable questions, or in asking the as-yet-unanswerable questions. I have no problem with asking them, and I certainly have no issue with how we get through those dark nights of the soul by answering […]

Kiss your brain, and get moving

Here’s a fascinating TED Talk explaining that our brains developed primarily to facilitate movement: Wolpert points out that computers can “outthink” a human chess master, but that even a five-year-old has dexterity that blows away anything the most sophisticated robot can do. Physical movement is our primal and primary strength. Regrettably, we as a culture […]

Ian McEwen on science

The novelist Ian McEwen on his fascination with science: “Science is simply organised human curiosity and we should all take part. It’s a matter of beauty. Just as we treasure beauty in our music and literature, so there’s beauty to be found in the exuberant invention of science.” This is from a great interview over […]

For the love of science

We had a conversation with our campus tour leaders this week about science. Most tour leaders are not science majors. For whatever reason, few science students are drawn to our work. We get plenty of business and journalism majors, and there’s no shortage of English and political science students either. But as campus tours unfold […]

The end is near

I was at a conference in Denver last year and saw a headline in the local newspaper that said astronomers had determined conclusively that the nearest galaxy to ours, the Andromeda galaxy, is on a collision course with our very own Milky Way. There’s no way around it. It will be catastrophic, cataclysmic. Andromeda definitely […]