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Ethan Siegel

Ethan Siegel 

Science writer, professor and theoretical astrophysicist

Occupation: Theoretical Astrophysicist / Writer / Educator (NASA's The Space Place)

Followers: 44,660

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Views: 3,897,173

Added to CircleCount.com: 07/20/2011That's the date, where Ethan Siegel has been indexed by CircleCount.com.
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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 17

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2016-04-01 15:37:17 (17 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

"But until we fully understand everything in the Universe that affects us, including:

* the full suite of initial conditions under which the Universe was born,
* how each individual mass moved and evolved over time,
* how the Milky Way and all the associated galaxies, groups and clusters formed, and
* how that happened at every point in cosmic history up through the present,
we won’t be able to truly understand our cosmic motion. At least, not without this one trick."

Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity tell us that there’s no Universal, preferred frame of reference. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that our physical Universe doesn’t have an average frame of reference, one which minimizes the relative speeds of all the galaxies to one another. While the Earth rotates, orbits the Sun, which revolves in our galaxy, which moves inthe local... more »

Most reshares: 21

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2016-03-15 17:20:51 (5 comments; 21 reshares; 40 +1s)Open 

"Nowhere in quantum mechanics is information ever transmitted non-locally, so that it jumps over a stretch of space without having to go through all places in between. Entanglement is itself non-local, but it doesn’t do any action – it is a correlation that is not connected to non-local transfer of information or any other observable. When you see a study where two entangled photons are separated by a great distance and then the spin of each one is measured, there is no information being transferred faster than the speed of light. In fact, if you attempt to bring the results of two observations together (which is information transmission), that information can only travel at the speed of light, no faster! What constitutes “information” was a great source confusion in the early days of quantum mechanics, but we know today that the theory can be made perfectly compatible with Einstein’s theoryof Specia... more »

Most plusones: 51

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2016-04-25 14:31:18 (2 comments; 5 reshares; 51 +1s)Open 

“It’s thought that these rings formed by organic compounds from either colliding, destroyed moons or ejecta via the extant moons. The small, innermost moons of Neptune and Jupiter shepherd their great, dusty rings. Contrariwise, Uranus’ rings simply are, consisting of mostly rocks up to 20 meters in size.”

We typically think of Saturn as our Solar System’s ringed world, thanks to its huge, glorious rings spanning nearly three times the diameter of the planet from tip-to-tip. But the other three gas giant worlds have their own impressive ring systems, with Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune boasting four, thirteen and five rings, respectively. While Neptune and Jupiter’s rings are exclusively created and shepherded by their inner, tiny moons, Uranus has a system somewhere in between those worlds and Saturn’s, having been discovered from the ground years before the Voyager spacecraft everarrived. Go g... more »

Latest 50 posts

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2016-04-28 00:37:05 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

"The fact that our atmosphere is layered is crucial to the success of this method. Certain elements are segregated from the others, and are found only at very particular altitudes. One of the elements that’s very rare is sodium, which happens to be concentrated in a thin layer about 100 km (60 miles) up. If you fire a sodium laser into the air, it will excite those sodium atoms found at that particular altitude, which then spontaneously de-excite, creating an artificial light source to be used as an artificial guide star."

If you want to take an ideal image of the Universe, you need to not only minimize your light pollution, cloud cover and build the largest-aperture telescope you can, you also need to take away as much of the atmospheric distortion as you can. Typically, this involved building your telescopes at as high an altitude as possible, or ideally, going to space. However,a... more »

"The fact that our atmosphere is layered is crucial to the success of this method. Certain elements are segregated from the others, and are found only at very particular altitudes. One of the elements that’s very rare is sodium, which happens to be concentrated in a thin layer about 100 km (60 miles) up. If you fire a sodium laser into the air, it will excite those sodium atoms found at that particular altitude, which then spontaneously de-excite, creating an artificial light source to be used as an artificial guide star."

If you want to take an ideal image of the Universe, you need to not only minimize your light pollution, cloud cover and build the largest-aperture telescope you can, you also need to take away as much of the atmospheric distortion as you can. Typically, this involved building your telescopes at as high an altitude as possible, or ideally, going to space. However, adaptive optics technology recently (in 2012) surpassed the Hubble Space Telescope in at least some circumstances, and the latest development, of the 4 Laser Guide Star Facility (4LGSF), is poised to blow the old records out of the water.___

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2016-04-27 01:12:36 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s)Open 

"On the largest scales, the fundamental, tiny amount of energy inherent to space itself — less than one Joule of energy per cubic kilometer of space — is enough to overcome even the gravitational attraction between the most massive galaxies and clusters in the Universe. The result? An accelerated expansion, as the most distant galaxies and clusters move farther and farther away from one another at ever faster rates as time goes on. On the largest cosmic scales, even gravity doesn’t get its way."

But what does it truly mean to be strong? We have four fundamental forces in the Universe: the strong, electromagnetic, weak and gravitational forces. You might think that, by virtue of its name, the strong force is the strongest one. And you'd be right, from a particular point of view: at the smallest distance scales, 10^-16 meters and below, no other force can overpower it.
But... more »

"On the largest scales, the fundamental, tiny amount of energy inherent to space itself — less than one Joule of energy per cubic kilometer of space — is enough to overcome even the gravitational attraction between the most massive galaxies and clusters in the Universe. The result? An accelerated expansion, as the most distant galaxies and clusters move farther and farther away from one another at ever faster rates as time goes on. On the largest cosmic scales, even gravity doesn’t get its way."

But what does it truly mean to be strong? We have four fundamental forces in the Universe: the strong, electromagnetic, weak and gravitational forces. You might think that, by virtue of its name, the strong force is the strongest one. And you'd be right, from a particular point of view: at the smallest distance scales, 10^-16 meters and below, no other force can overpower it.

But under the right circumstances, each of the forces can shine. Up until recently, on the largest scales, we thought that gravitation -- by and large the weakest of the forces -- was the only force that mattered. And yet, when we look on the very largest scales, many billions of light years in size, even gravitation doesn't win the day.

There are four possible answers depending on how you look at the question. Come find out who's the strongest of them all!___

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2016-04-25 14:31:18 (2 comments; 5 reshares; 51 +1s)Open 

“It’s thought that these rings formed by organic compounds from either colliding, destroyed moons or ejecta via the extant moons. The small, innermost moons of Neptune and Jupiter shepherd their great, dusty rings. Contrariwise, Uranus’ rings simply are, consisting of mostly rocks up to 20 meters in size.”

We typically think of Saturn as our Solar System’s ringed world, thanks to its huge, glorious rings spanning nearly three times the diameter of the planet from tip-to-tip. But the other three gas giant worlds have their own impressive ring systems, with Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune boasting four, thirteen and five rings, respectively. While Neptune and Jupiter’s rings are exclusively created and shepherded by their inner, tiny moons, Uranus has a system somewhere in between those worlds and Saturn’s, having been discovered from the ground years before the Voyager spacecraft everarrived. Go g... more »

“It’s thought that these rings formed by organic compounds from either colliding, destroyed moons or ejecta via the extant moons. The small, innermost moons of Neptune and Jupiter shepherd their great, dusty rings. Contrariwise, Uranus’ rings simply are, consisting of mostly rocks up to 20 meters in size.”

We typically think of Saturn as our Solar System’s ringed world, thanks to its huge, glorious rings spanning nearly three times the diameter of the planet from tip-to-tip. But the other three gas giant worlds have their own impressive ring systems, with Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune boasting four, thirteen and five rings, respectively. While Neptune and Jupiter’s rings are exclusively created and shepherded by their inner, tiny moons, Uranus has a system somewhere in between those worlds and Saturn’s, having been discovered from the ground years before the Voyager spacecraft ever arrived. Go get the full story in pictures, animations and no more than 200 words on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!___

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2016-04-24 21:56:01 (7 comments; 0 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

"A good friend of mine never knew my profession until we had known each other for almost a year. When we were just talking and I mentioned something about being on the news to explain the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, he was shocked! I asked him what he thought I did for a living. He told me, “I don’t know, I just assumed you were, like, a janitor or something.”

But you made assumptions (quite negative ones) about what I was (and what I was capable of) based on my appearance, which is my choice. Now that you know that I have an eccentric cosplay wardrobe (which some consider impressive), you still assert that I’m better off trying to distinguish myself through the quality of my work. Can’t I do both, without you negatively judging the quality of one from your distaste of the other?"

A lot of people say a lot of things, both to me and about me. Here's whatI think o... more »

"A good friend of mine never knew my profession until we had known each other for almost a year. When we were just talking and I mentioned something about being on the news to explain the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, he was shocked! I asked him what he thought I did for a living. He told me, “I don’t know, I just assumed you were, like, a janitor or something.”

But you made assumptions (quite negative ones) about what I was (and what I was capable of) based on my appearance, which is my choice. Now that you know that I have an eccentric cosplay wardrobe (which some consider impressive), you still assert that I’m better off trying to distinguish myself through the quality of my work. Can’t I do both, without you negatively judging the quality of one from your distaste of the other?"

A lot of people say a lot of things, both to me and about me. Here's what I think of it all this week!___

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2016-04-23 14:05:51 (4 comments; 3 reshares; 33 +1s)Open 

"[M]y dad and I have been discussing the possibilities of spacecraft like the ones Yuri Milner and Steven Hawking are proposing. My dad speculated on using atmospheric drag to slow the spaceship down once it arrived at a planet. I attest that it would have no chance of slowing down appreciably and would surely result in a giant explosion. Which one is it?"

Earlier this month, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking teamed up to announce the Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million investment in technology that would build a laser array to propel a thin, light "laser sail" spacecraft to approximately 20% the speed of light. If we can achieve these speeds and sufficiently aim these sails at the nearest star systems, we'll arrive at our destinations within a single human lifetime. But we'll still be going at 20% the speed of light when we get there, or about 1,000 times as fast as... more »

"[M]y dad and I have been discussing the possibilities of spacecraft like the ones Yuri Milner and Steven Hawking are proposing. My dad speculated on using atmospheric drag to slow the spaceship down once it arrived at a planet. I attest that it would have no chance of slowing down appreciably and would surely result in a giant explosion. Which one is it?"

Earlier this month, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking teamed up to announce the Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million investment in technology that would build a laser array to propel a thin, light "laser sail" spacecraft to approximately 20% the speed of light. If we can achieve these speeds and sufficiently aim these sails at the nearest star systems, we'll arrive at our destinations within a single human lifetime. But we'll still be going at 20% the speed of light when we get there, or about 1,000 times as fast as the meteors that burn up in our own planet's atmosphere. Is there any chance for slowing these spacecraft down once they arrive, or are they doomed to burn up (or miss completely and leave the galaxy) upon arrival? A reverse laser array might work, but anything involving atmospheric drag would be a disaster!___

2016-04-22 19:02:08 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s)Open 

"Yet a world that was in between Earth and Neptune in mass and size could take tens of thousands of years to orbit. And as it passed through either the outer Kuiper belt or the inner Oort cloud, it would perturb whatever objects were out there, and create this strange clustering pattern, in ecliptic longitude and latitude, of these Trans-Neptunian Objects."

Is Planet Nine for real? What's the scientific evidence for its existence, and what are we doing to try and find out whether it's a figment of our imaginings or not? Find out all this and more on our latest Podcast! (And if you really like it, consider supporting our Patreon, which enables us to create them!)

"Yet a world that was in between Earth and Neptune in mass and size could take tens of thousands of years to orbit. And as it passed through either the outer Kuiper belt or the inner Oort cloud, it would perturb whatever objects were out there, and create this strange clustering pattern, in ecliptic longitude and latitude, of these Trans-Neptunian Objects."

Is Planet Nine for real? What's the scientific evidence for its existence, and what are we doing to try and find out whether it's a figment of our imaginings or not? Find out all this and more on our latest Podcast! (And if you really like it, consider supporting our Patreon, which enables us to create them!)___

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2016-04-22 14:16:08 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

"You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”" -Edgar Mitchell

There are a great many world with opportunities for life, both in our Solar System and beyond, and we've only just begun to discover them. Perhaps Enceladus, Europa or Titan harbor some form of life right now, and perhaps Mars or Venus had plentiful lifeforms in the earliest moments of the Solar System. But compared to everything we've found out there, there's still no planet as friendly to life or hospitable to humans as Earth is. It's the fact that we went beyond the Earthand... more »

"You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”" -Edgar Mitchell

There are a great many world with opportunities for life, both in our Solar System and beyond, and we've only just begun to discover them. Perhaps Enceladus, Europa or Titan harbor some form of life right now, and perhaps Mars or Venus had plentiful lifeforms in the earliest moments of the Solar System. But compared to everything we've found out there, there's still no planet as friendly to life or hospitable to humans as Earth is. It's the fact that we went beyond the Earth and discovered the Universe that's allowed us to appreciate just how rare, precious and special our home world is.
Make the most of it this Earth day, and remember it every day to come!___

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2016-04-21 22:26:22 (1 comments; 4 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

"The Universe has a great story to tell us about its origin, to the limits of what we can conceivably measure. The better we get at actually making those measurements, the better we can understand how it all got its start. Cosmic inflation is almost definitely the answer to what happened before the Big Bang. But what was cosmic inflation like? We’re closer than ever to actually coming up with the answer."

If you go back in time, earlier and earlier, things get hotter, denser and more energetic. But there's a limit to how far back you can go, and that limit doesn't end in a singularity with the birth of time and space; instead, it ends with a period of cosmic inflation, which set up the hot Big Bang as we know it. For a long time, inflation was pure theory. Recently, however, detailed observations of the density fluctuations in the Universe have not only confirmed it, but havea... more »

"The Universe has a great story to tell us about its origin, to the limits of what we can conceivably measure. The better we get at actually making those measurements, the better we can understand how it all got its start. Cosmic inflation is almost definitely the answer to what happened before the Big Bang. But what was cosmic inflation like? We’re closer than ever to actually coming up with the answer."

If you go back in time, earlier and earlier, things get hotter, denser and more energetic. But there's a limit to how far back you can go, and that limit doesn't end in a singularity with the birth of time and space; instead, it ends with a period of cosmic inflation, which set up the hot Big Bang as we know it. For a long time, inflation was pure theory. Recently, however, detailed observations of the density fluctuations in the Universe have not only confirmed it, but have allowed us to better understand which models of inflation might actually describe our Universe. If our modeling is correct and the data continues to improve, we just might come to understand how the Universe came to be this way after all.___

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2016-04-21 15:32:55 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 13 +1s)Open 

Hey, Washington State! Want to hear me talk about gravitational waves in a free public lecture?

Come to the Toledo Community Library in Toledo, WA (Lewis County) tonight, at 7 PM, and enjoy!

Hey, Washington State! Want to hear me talk about gravitational waves in a free public lecture?

Come to the Toledo Community Library in Toledo, WA (Lewis County) tonight, at 7 PM, and enjoy!___

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2016-04-20 23:07:41 (1 comments; 3 reshares; 10 +1s)Open 

"When the free electrons finally find the ions they bind to, they drop down in energy, creating an incredible display of colorful possibilities. Of all of them, it’s the oxygen (mostly, with the strong emission line at 558 nanometers) and the nitrogen (secondary, with the smaller line at a slightly higher wavelength) that create the familiar, spectacular green color we most commonly associate with aurorae, but blues and reds — often at higher altitudes — are sometimes possible, too, with contributions from all three of the major atmospheric elements and their combinations."

The northern (aurora borealis) and southern (aurora australis) lights are caused by a combination of three phenomena on our world, that make our aurorae unique among all worlds in our solar system:

1.) Outbursts from the Sun that can go in any direction,
2.) Our magnetic field, that funnelscharg... more »

"When the free electrons finally find the ions they bind to, they drop down in energy, creating an incredible display of colorful possibilities. Of all of them, it’s the oxygen (mostly, with the strong emission line at 558 nanometers) and the nitrogen (secondary, with the smaller line at a slightly higher wavelength) that create the familiar, spectacular green color we most commonly associate with aurorae, but blues and reds — often at higher altitudes — are sometimes possible, too, with contributions from all three of the major atmospheric elements and their combinations."

The northern (aurora borealis) and southern (aurora australis) lights are caused by a combination of three phenomena on our world, that make our aurorae unique among all worlds in our solar system:

1.) Outbursts from the Sun that can go in any direction,
2.) Our magnetic field, that funnels charged particles into circles around the poles,
3.) And our atmospheric composition, that causes the colors and the displays we see.

Put all of these together and add in a 4k camera aboard the ISS, and you've got an outstanding recipe for the greatest aurora video ever composed. Here's the in-depth science behind it, too.___

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2016-04-19 22:19:30 (2 comments; 7 reshares; 30 +1s)Open 

"The gravitational waves from this event are certainly real, but the electromagnetic signals are far less certain. As always, the issue won’t be settled by two different teams arguing over whose results are better, Fermi’s or INTEGRAL’s, but rather by more and better data from subsequent events. The science of gravitational wave astronomy has finally moved into its infancy, and this is the first attempt at taking the next steps. Keep an open mind for how this will turn out, but be extremely cautious about these claims until that superior data is available!"

On September 14th, 2015, both LIGO detectors in Hanover, WA and Livingston, LA, detected an unambiguous gravitational wave signal from two merging black holes some 1.3 billion light years distant. About 0.4 seconds later, NASA's Fermi satellite saw a weak, transient event in the gamma ray portion of the electromagneticspect... more »

"The gravitational waves from this event are certainly real, but the electromagnetic signals are far less certain. As always, the issue won’t be settled by two different teams arguing over whose results are better, Fermi’s or INTEGRAL’s, but rather by more and better data from subsequent events. The science of gravitational wave astronomy has finally moved into its infancy, and this is the first attempt at taking the next steps. Keep an open mind for how this will turn out, but be extremely cautious about these claims until that superior data is available!"

On September 14th, 2015, both LIGO detectors in Hanover, WA and Livingston, LA, detected an unambiguous gravitational wave signal from two merging black holes some 1.3 billion light years distant. About 0.4 seconds later, NASA's Fermi satellite saw a weak, transient event in the gamma ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Could this have been a surprising accompaniment to the black hole-black hole merger? It's possible, but there are three strikes against it: the data has less than 3σ statistical significance; the orientation of the signal to the satellite was out of the optimal range for detection; and the ESA's Integral satellite saw null results looking for the same effect. In other words, not only is the jury still out on whether these gravitational wave events have electromagnetic counterparts, but you should be very skeptical about Fermi's reported results!___

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2016-04-19 16:50:13 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s)Open 

Hey, science/sci-fi/fantasy fans in the Pacific Northwest!

Guess who's going to be the Science Guest Of Honor at next year's NorWesCon (the 40th) in Seattle?

Hope to see you there, for the science, the fun, the costumes and so much more!

Hey, science/sci-fi/fantasy fans in the Pacific Northwest!

Guess who's going to be the Science Guest Of Honor at next year's NorWesCon (the 40th) in Seattle?

Hope to see you there, for the science, the fun, the costumes and so much more!___

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2016-04-18 19:28:13 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 10 +1s)Open 

Hey Portland, what are you doing tonight, Monday, April 18th?

Answer: You're coming to OMSI at 7:30 PM, to hear me give a free public talk on gravitational waves: the theory, the experiment, the discovery and the future!

Hey Portland, what are you doing tonight, Monday, April 18th?

Answer: You're coming to OMSI at 7:30 PM, to hear me give a free public talk on gravitational waves: the theory, the experiment, the discovery and the future!___

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2016-04-18 15:35:44 (9 comments; 8 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

"Relative to the stars in the sky, planets generally move slightly towards the east from night-to-night. But beginning tonight, Mars will move to the west, commencing retrograde motion, which continues until June 30th. This isn’t due to Mars changing its motion, but rather to Earth, orbiting inner to Mars, overtaking it due to Earth’s faster path around the Sun."

Every two years, Earth passes Mars in orbit, as the inner, faster world overtakes the outer one. This year, it happens when Earth approaches aphelion, its farthest point from the Sun, while Mars approaches perihelion, or its closest approach. On May 30th, the two worlds pass within just 0.51 A.U. (76 million km) of one another, their closest encounter since 2005. While Mars will still appear as no more than a point to unaided human vision, telescopes will provide absolutely spectacular views during the next three months.<... more »

"Relative to the stars in the sky, planets generally move slightly towards the east from night-to-night. But beginning tonight, Mars will move to the west, commencing retrograde motion, which continues until June 30th. This isn’t due to Mars changing its motion, but rather to Earth, orbiting inner to Mars, overtaking it due to Earth’s faster path around the Sun."

Every two years, Earth passes Mars in orbit, as the inner, faster world overtakes the outer one. This year, it happens when Earth approaches aphelion, its farthest point from the Sun, while Mars approaches perihelion, or its closest approach. On May 30th, the two worlds pass within just 0.51 A.U. (76 million km) of one another, their closest encounter since 2005. While Mars will still appear as no more than a point to unaided human vision, telescopes will provide absolutely spectacular views during the next three months.

If you miss it, you'll have to wait two years for views this good. Go get the whole story -- and some amazing pictures -- to start your week off right!___

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2016-04-17 16:11:07 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

"First, the results of last week’s poll: only 5% of people wanted to know the #1 cause as a sufficient answer when asked “what causes something” scientifically. 48% agreed with Michael Kelsey from last week, that I should stick to the major causes that are actually effective, while only 23% agreed with the approach I traditionally take, to enumerate and quantify all causes, even the ones that aren’t particularly relevant.

Of course, 24% of you said “Aliens.”"

Plus the science of Jupiter, Saturn, the expanding Universe and reaching for the stars, along with a craptacular History Channel/"Aliens" parody. You know you want to see my skills of an artist!

"First, the results of last week’s poll: only 5% of people wanted to know the #1 cause as a sufficient answer when asked “what causes something” scientifically. 48% agreed with Michael Kelsey from last week, that I should stick to the major causes that are actually effective, while only 23% agreed with the approach I traditionally take, to enumerate and quantify all causes, even the ones that aren’t particularly relevant.

Of course, 24% of you said “Aliens.”"

Plus the science of Jupiter, Saturn, the expanding Universe and reaching for the stars, along with a craptacular History Channel/"Aliens" parody. You know you want to see my skills of an artist!___

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2016-04-16 14:47:00 (12 comments; 10 reshares; 47 +1s)Open 

"Why do you, Mr. Ethan Siegel … look quite odd and non-serious, whereas you are a great scientific intellectual? A fly might enter your mouth."

No one likes being denied an opportunity — or told they shouldn’t do something they want to — solely because of the way they are. That’s especially true when it comes to something that’s an intrinsic part of one’s self, such as their race, gender, demeanor or personality. Which is why it surprised me to have my own legitimacy as a scientist questioned because of the way I choose to present myself to the world. I think it’s important, in this world, not to conform to whatever stereotype people expect you to be, but rather to be yourself and express yourself as you truly are. In my experience, the people who matter most will not judge you negatively for that, but rather will appreciate your authenticity all that much more. Becausenot everyone ne... more »

"Why do you, Mr. Ethan Siegel … look quite odd and non-serious, whereas you are a great scientific intellectual? A fly might enter your mouth."

No one likes being denied an opportunity — or told they shouldn’t do something they want to — solely because of the way they are. That’s especially true when it comes to something that’s an intrinsic part of one’s self, such as their race, gender, demeanor or personality. Which is why it surprised me to have my own legitimacy as a scientist questioned because of the way I choose to present myself to the world. I think it’s important, in this world, not to conform to whatever stereotype people expect you to be, but rather to be yourself and express yourself as you truly are. In my experience, the people who matter most will not judge you negatively for that, but rather will appreciate your authenticity all that much more. Because not everyone needs to look like a majority (or even a plurality) of the people in your field do.___

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2016-04-15 15:18:31 (9 comments; 3 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

"This could be the greatest problem facing the project: are we simply spending tens of billions of dollars to deliver ~1-gram artifacts from Earth into deep space, never to be heard from again? Which isn’t to say let’s not do this, but rather to say let’s be honest about the challenges facing us. Because if we’re going to do it, we’d better do it right and make this effort as meaningful as possible."

In one of the boldest initiatives ever announced, billionaire Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking are working on developing a "Breakthrough Starshot" project, where an advanced laser array will power a sail-driven spacecraft to speeds exceeding 60,000 km/s, taking it to the nearest stars within a single human lifetime. It's an incredible ideas, and recent improvements in laser technology, strong-and-reflective materials and in electronics miniaturization seem to makethis a re... more »

"This could be the greatest problem facing the project: are we simply spending tens of billions of dollars to deliver ~1-gram artifacts from Earth into deep space, never to be heard from again? Which isn’t to say let’s not do this, but rather to say let’s be honest about the challenges facing us. Because if we’re going to do it, we’d better do it right and make this effort as meaningful as possible."

In one of the boldest initiatives ever announced, billionaire Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking are working on developing a "Breakthrough Starshot" project, where an advanced laser array will power a sail-driven spacecraft to speeds exceeding 60,000 km/s, taking it to the nearest stars within a single human lifetime. It's an incredible ideas, and recent improvements in laser technology, strong-and-reflective materials and in electronics miniaturization seem to make this a realistic possibility. But there are a huge number of technical and scientific challenges ahead, and the pledged $100 million is barely a drop in the ocean of what's needed. This might be a legitimate possibility at long last, but the obstacles to overcome are tremendous.___

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2016-04-14 20:45:05 (12 comments; 4 reshares; 26 +1s)Open 

"The stars of the past had to die so that you could be here, and someday, a long time from now, our Sun will return the favor, and help make more new stars, new planets, new worlds, and new chances for life. So yes, it’s true that the Sun will explode someday. But when it does, that’s the greatest gift any star can ever hope to give to the Universe. It would be too greedy to keep that all for ourselves. After all, it took billions of stars giving that gift already in order to make you."

The cosmic story common to all of us -- where we came from, how we got here and where we're headed into the future -- is both amazing and daunting. But when we're first exposed to the vastness of it all in terms of both time and space, it can be downright terrifying. This is particularly true for young children, who often experience a huge existential crisis when they realize that not onlyare... more »

"The stars of the past had to die so that you could be here, and someday, a long time from now, our Sun will return the favor, and help make more new stars, new planets, new worlds, and new chances for life. So yes, it’s true that the Sun will explode someday. But when it does, that’s the greatest gift any star can ever hope to give to the Universe. It would be too greedy to keep that all for ourselves. After all, it took billions of stars giving that gift already in order to make you."

The cosmic story common to all of us -- where we came from, how we got here and where we're headed into the future -- is both amazing and daunting. But when we're first exposed to the vastness of it all in terms of both time and space, it can be downright terrifying. This is particularly true for young children, who often experience a huge existential crisis when they realize that not only are they going to die, but everyone and everything that ever existed will die, including the Sun. How can we simultaneously give them the scientifically accurate (and level-appropriate) story of the Universe while still being kind and compassionate?

Here's my attempt, which I encourage you to share with every curious child you know!___

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2016-04-13 21:52:56 (3 comments; 5 reshares; 30 +1s)Open 

"What’s most amazing about this is that this is the first concrete, indisputable evidence that there is physics beyond the Standard Model — not even including gravity — that exists in our Universe. The possibilities include extra, heavy (Dirac) neutrinos, fourth (sterile) neutrinos, both of which are conceivably dark matter candidates. It’s even possible that the neutrino is its own (Majorana) antiparticle!"

Imagine you finally thought you understood how the Sun worked: how light elements fused into heavier ones, emitting energy in the process. And when you finally completed your calculations, you got nuclear physics results that matched what you observed exactly, energy outputs that fit, and a prediction for the emission of neutrinos. Yet when you built the detector to see them, you only saw a third of what you anticipated! What would you do? Well, this was a mystery that tooknearly ... more »

"What’s most amazing about this is that this is the first concrete, indisputable evidence that there is physics beyond the Standard Model — not even including gravity — that exists in our Universe. The possibilities include extra, heavy (Dirac) neutrinos, fourth (sterile) neutrinos, both of which are conceivably dark matter candidates. It’s even possible that the neutrino is its own (Majorana) antiparticle!"

Imagine you finally thought you understood how the Sun worked: how light elements fused into heavier ones, emitting energy in the process. And when you finally completed your calculations, you got nuclear physics results that matched what you observed exactly, energy outputs that fit, and a prediction for the emission of neutrinos. Yet when you built the detector to see them, you only saw a third of what you anticipated! What would you do? Well, this was a mystery that took nearly 40 years to solve, but it turned out that neutrinos aren’t massless, but have a small, non-zero mass that allows them to flavor change from one type into another: neutrinos oscillate. It was finally confirmed in the 2000s by the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, and for that, Art McDonald won the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics.

Tune in at 7 PM ET / 4 PM PT for a live blog by me, plus Nobel Laureate Art McDonald's public lecture!___

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2016-04-13 17:15:35 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 13 +1s)Open 

"There are many other ideas out there. A large class of models, for example, deals with the possibility that quantum gravitational effects endow space-time with the properties of a medium. This can lead to the dispersion of light (colors running apart), birefringence (polarizations running apart), decoherence (preventing interference), or an opacity of otherwise empty space. More speculative ideas include Craig Hogan’s quest for holographic noise, Bekenstein’s table-top experiment that searches for Planck-length discreteness, or searches for evidence of a minimal length in tritium decay. "

Quantum gravity is one of the holy grails of physics, and showing that gravitation is an inherently quantum force would be a tremendous step towards validating our present approaches to theoretical physics. While directly detecting gravitons might still be very far off, there are a number ofwea... more »

"There are many other ideas out there. A large class of models, for example, deals with the possibility that quantum gravitational effects endow space-time with the properties of a medium. This can lead to the dispersion of light (colors running apart), birefringence (polarizations running apart), decoherence (preventing interference), or an opacity of otherwise empty space. More speculative ideas include Craig Hogan’s quest for holographic noise, Bekenstein’s table-top experiment that searches for Planck-length discreteness, or searches for evidence of a minimal length in tritium decay. "

Quantum gravity is one of the holy grails of physics, and showing that gravitation is an inherently quantum force would be a tremendous step towards validating our present approaches to theoretical physics. While directly detecting gravitons might still be very far off, there are a number of weak-field tests involving the CMB and macroscopic quantum systems that have this potential, as well as potential strong-field tests that could all bear fruit in the near future. While we still won't know which approach to quantum gravity is correct, the first experiments designed to show that Einstein's General Relativity isn't enough are already underway.___

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2016-04-12 22:10:36 (7 comments; 11 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

"According to the CMB, the rate that the Universe is expanding today (the Hubble rate of expansion) is 67±1 km/s/Mpc, while according to the other (distance ladder) method, that rate is 74±2 km/s/Mpc. This might not seem like such a big deal, as you might say to yourself, “maybe it’s somewhere between the two values: 70 looks about right.” But these uncertainties are now so small that the two possible measurement values do not overlap. Instead, we’re left with only two possibilities:

1.) There’s a fundamental flaw in one of the methods used: perhaps the assumptions and inferences of the CMB are incorrect, or perhaps our inability to calibrate the smaller distances on the distance latter are skewing us away from the true values.
2.) Or, more excitingly, perhaps both measurements are correct and they’re measuring different things, implying that some major component of theUniverse, lik... more »

"According to the CMB, the rate that the Universe is expanding today (the Hubble rate of expansion) is 67±1 km/s/Mpc, while according to the other (distance ladder) method, that rate is 74±2 km/s/Mpc. This might not seem like such a big deal, as you might say to yourself, “maybe it’s somewhere between the two values: 70 looks about right.” But these uncertainties are now so small that the two possible measurement values do not overlap. Instead, we’re left with only two possibilities:

1.) There’s a fundamental flaw in one of the methods used: perhaps the assumptions and inferences of the CMB are incorrect, or perhaps our inability to calibrate the smaller distances on the distance latter are skewing us away from the true values.
2.) Or, more excitingly, perhaps both measurements are correct and they’re measuring different things, implying that some major component of the Universe, like dark matter or dark energy, is changing over time."

The Universe could have had any number of fates, even given that it started out with a hot Big Bang. Gravitation could have overcome the initial expansion, eventually causing a recollapse and a big crunch. The expansion could have been too great, and caused a runaway expansion that always slowed but never ceased. Yet the Universe gave us a surprising option that was none of the above: acceleration due to dark energy. It's our measurements of astrophysical objects at great distances and the fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background that allowed us to determine our expansion history. Yet those two sources, when we look at them in detail, give results that conflict with one another! Does this mean that one of the measurements is problematic? Or, perhaps more excitingly, does that mean dark matter or dark energy is changing over time?___

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2016-04-11 14:07:29 (2 comments; 4 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

“Composed of 99.9% water-ice, the ring system has thousands of thin gaps, and was thicker and more varied in the past. The once-rocky material has coalesced into moons, but the watery rings will remain for as long as our Solar System exists.”

In the 1600s, the earliest telescopes saw that Saturn had "ears," while later observers all the way back then finally saw their true nature: a ringed system with complex gaps, bands and colorations throughout. Since then, Saturn’s rings have been a source of wonder and puzzlement to skywatchers everywhere. The only ring system visible through most telescopes from Earth, Saturn’s main rings measure more than 70,000 km long, yet are no more than 1 km in thickness. Once thought to have only two gaps in them, the Cassini spacecraft has revealed over a thousand, teaching us that Saturn’s rings are ancient -- likely as old as the planet itself-- and wi... more »

“Composed of 99.9% water-ice, the ring system has thousands of thin gaps, and was thicker and more varied in the past. The once-rocky material has coalesced into moons, but the watery rings will remain for as long as our Solar System exists.”

In the 1600s, the earliest telescopes saw that Saturn had "ears," while later observers all the way back then finally saw their true nature: a ringed system with complex gaps, bands and colorations throughout. Since then, Saturn’s rings have been a source of wonder and puzzlement to skywatchers everywhere. The only ring system visible through most telescopes from Earth, Saturn’s main rings measure more than 70,000 km long, yet are no more than 1 km in thickness. Once thought to have only two gaps in them, the Cassini spacecraft has revealed over a thousand, teaching us that Saturn’s rings are ancient -- likely as old as the planet itself -- and will likely continue to exist for as long as our Sun shines.

Go get the full story in a glorious set of pictures from Cassini and no more than 200 words on today's Mostly Mute Monday!___

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2016-04-09 21:00:18 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 6 +1s)Open 

"Just because we can’t explain everything with a scientific theory (e.g., we don’t discount evolution because it doesn’t explain the origin of life, or the Big Bang because it doesn’t explain the origin of space and time) doesn’t mean we abandon the scientific theory when it appears to be valid. This one is pretty robust, although there are still improvements to be made and there is still more to learn. I know we’ll both be looking for the new findings and the new pieces of knowledge as they arise."

And I wouldn't let the science end without responding to the best comments of the past week, including about global warming, the movie Gravity, time and evolution, LIGO, Galileo, E=mc^2 and more. Go see what's happened in the Universe (and what it means) on this edition of our Comments of the Week!

"Just because we can’t explain everything with a scientific theory (e.g., we don’t discount evolution because it doesn’t explain the origin of life, or the Big Bang because it doesn’t explain the origin of space and time) doesn’t mean we abandon the scientific theory when it appears to be valid. This one is pretty robust, although there are still improvements to be made and there is still more to learn. I know we’ll both be looking for the new findings and the new pieces of knowledge as they arise."

And I wouldn't let the science end without responding to the best comments of the past week, including about global warming, the movie Gravity, time and evolution, LIGO, Galileo, E=mc^2 and more. Go see what's happened in the Universe (and what it means) on this edition of our Comments of the Week!___

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2016-04-09 15:07:33 (5 comments; 2 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

“Is Jupiter hit by so many celestial objects because of its gravity or because it is just too big to miss?”

The possibility of getting hit by a wayward asteroid or comet is a scenario that could range from an expensive inconvenience to a mass extinction-level event, depending on the mass and speed of the potential impactor. While recent events like Chelyabinsk and Tunguska -- and more energetic ones like Barringer crater and the Cretaceous-ending strike that caused the last mass extinction -- remind us how dangerous the Universe can be, that's nothing compared to what Jupiter experiences. In 1994, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck Jupiter with the same energy as the dinosaur-killer that struck Earth 65 million years ago, followed just 15 years later by a strike so energetic it hasn't been seen on Earth in hundreds of thousands of years. Multiple recent events show that collision onJup... more »

“Is Jupiter hit by so many celestial objects because of its gravity or because it is just too big to miss?”

The possibility of getting hit by a wayward asteroid or comet is a scenario that could range from an expensive inconvenience to a mass extinction-level event, depending on the mass and speed of the potential impactor. While recent events like Chelyabinsk and Tunguska -- and more energetic ones like Barringer crater and the Cretaceous-ending strike that caused the last mass extinction -- remind us how dangerous the Universe can be, that's nothing compared to what Jupiter experiences. In 1994, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck Jupiter with the same energy as the dinosaur-killer that struck Earth 65 million years ago, followed just 15 years later by a strike so energetic it hasn't been seen on Earth in hundreds of thousands of years. Multiple recent events show that collision on Jupiter are far more frequent than we'd expect for its size, and yet gravitation is only part of the rest of the story.

Why is Jupiter such an impact-prolific world? Get the full scoop on this edition of Ask Ethan!___

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2016-04-08 16:00:34 (6 comments; 3 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

“Imagine what things would be like if this weren’t true. Imagine an existence where nature behaves randomly and unpredictably, where gravity turns on-and-off on a whim, where the Sun could simply stop burning its fuel for no apparent reason, where the atoms that form you could spontaneously cease to hold together.
A Universe like this would truly be frightening, because it could never be understood. The things you learn here and now might not be true later, or even five feet away. But the Universe isn’t like this at all.”
The scientific enterprise has uncovered a huge number of astounding, surprising and yet fundamental truths about our Universe, what composes it and the way it works. From the formation and evolution of life on Earth to the existence and behavior of subatomic particles to the birth of the matter and radiation filling our Universe today, the amount we’ve learned isamazing. ... more »

“Imagine what things would be like if this weren’t true. Imagine an existence where nature behaves randomly and unpredictably, where gravity turns on-and-off on a whim, where the Sun could simply stop burning its fuel for no apparent reason, where the atoms that form you could spontaneously cease to hold together.
A Universe like this would truly be frightening, because it could never be understood. The things you learn here and now might not be true later, or even five feet away. But the Universe isn’t like this at all.”
The scientific enterprise has uncovered a huge number of astounding, surprising and yet fundamental truths about our Universe, what composes it and the way it works. From the formation and evolution of life on Earth to the existence and behavior of subatomic particles to the birth of the matter and radiation filling our Universe today, the amount we’ve learned is amazing. Yet one astounding fact stands out above all the rest, and it isn’t that the atoms that compose our body were formed in stars and recycled into the Universe. No, more astounding than that — and more fundamental to knowledge itself — is this: the fact that the entire Universe, on all scales, in all places, and at all times, obeys the same fundamental laws of nature.___

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2016-04-07 23:05:31 (1 comments; 5 reshares; 30 +1s)Open 

"It might seem like a mundane achievement by today’s standards, but Galileo was able — through an ingenious experimental setup — to determine that the amount of distance an object in free-fall traveled was proportional to the amount of time that passed, squared. He was able to do this without a stopwatch, without any form of clock at all, without the ability to take a photograph, and without any modern technologies at all.

How did he do it?

By rolling balls down ramps."

Galileo is most famous for his astronomical discoveries, including the moons of Jupiter, the existence of sunspots and the phases of Venus. These discoveries were a strong challenge to geocentrism, and his writings and debates helped popularize the heliocentric model. Yet, in a recent article for Aeon magazine, Thony Christie argues that Galileo’s contributions to astronomy were minimalcompare... more »

"It might seem like a mundane achievement by today’s standards, but Galileo was able — through an ingenious experimental setup — to determine that the amount of distance an object in free-fall traveled was proportional to the amount of time that passed, squared. He was able to do this without a stopwatch, without any form of clock at all, without the ability to take a photograph, and without any modern technologies at all.

How did he do it?

By rolling balls down ramps."

Galileo is most famous for his astronomical discoveries, including the moons of Jupiter, the existence of sunspots and the phases of Venus. These discoveries were a strong challenge to geocentrism, and his writings and debates helped popularize the heliocentric model. Yet, in a recent article for Aeon magazine, Thony Christie argues that Galileo’s contributions to astronomy were minimal compared to his contemporaries, and that he was not the transformative scientist he’s billed to be. While certainly Kepler and others made greater contributions to astronomy at the time, Galileo’s contributions to physics were unparalleled, as there was no greater giant whose shoulders Newton stood upon when he wrote his genre-defining works.___

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2016-04-06 19:08:31 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

"These decay features don’t simply affect our human-made satellites, but also some of the natural satellites we find in orbit around other worlds! Mars’ innermost moon, Phobos, for example, is fated to break up due to the tidal forces and spiral into the red planet’s atmosphere. Despite having just 1/140th the atmosphere of Earth, the Martian atmosphere is still large and diffuse, and in addition Mars has no shield from the solar wind (unlike Earth, which has a magnetic field), resulting in a timescale-of-doom for Phobos of tens of millions of years. That might seem like a long time, but in the lifespan of the Solar System, that’s just ~1% of how long we’ve been around!"

When we launch a satellite into orbit around the Earth, we expend a tremendous amount of fuel and energy to make it happen. From hundreds of miles up — well above the definition of space — these satelliteszip around th... more »

"These decay features don’t simply affect our human-made satellites, but also some of the natural satellites we find in orbit around other worlds! Mars’ innermost moon, Phobos, for example, is fated to break up due to the tidal forces and spiral into the red planet’s atmosphere. Despite having just 1/140th the atmosphere of Earth, the Martian atmosphere is still large and diffuse, and in addition Mars has no shield from the solar wind (unlike Earth, which has a magnetic field), resulting in a timescale-of-doom for Phobos of tens of millions of years. That might seem like a long time, but in the lifespan of the Solar System, that’s just ~1% of how long we’ve been around!"

When we launch a satellite into orbit around the Earth, we expend a tremendous amount of fuel and energy to make it happen. From hundreds of miles up — well above the definition of space — these satellites zip around the Earth many times per day, at more than 70% the escape velocity at their position in low-Earth orbit. Yet these satellites aren’t stable at all, and will tumble back to Earth in a matter of decades if left unattended. The Moon, on the other hand, has stably orbited Earth for billions of years, and will continue to do so long into the future. The science of why satellites decay is due to five different components, all of which contribute. While atmospheric drag is the strongest for low-Earth orbit satellites, every orbiting body in space will eventually decay.___

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2016-04-04 15:21:17 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

“My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. [...] 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. I take multiple 30-second exposures [an amateur astronomer technique], then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

On Earth, star trails inevitably appear in any long-exposure image unless you account for the rotation of the Earth, requiring specialized mounts, advanced pointing software, or both. But from space, those same familiar motions appear, albeit for very different reasons. The ISS rotates not because of any celestial motions, but rather because it orbits the Earth in such a way that it sees a particular axis as a “fixed point” about which all the other stars appear to rotate. By stacking a series of short-exposure images and usingphoto proce... more »

“My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. [...] 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. I take multiple 30-second exposures [an amateur astronomer technique], then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

On Earth, star trails inevitably appear in any long-exposure image unless you account for the rotation of the Earth, requiring specialized mounts, advanced pointing software, or both. But from space, those same familiar motions appear, albeit for very different reasons. The ISS rotates not because of any celestial motions, but rather because it orbits the Earth in such a way that it sees a particular axis as a “fixed point” about which all the other stars appear to rotate. By stacking a series of short-exposure images and using photo processing software, images aboard the ISS can be constructed to show huge, sweeeping star trails, while underneath the Earth exhibits phenomena like the airglow, aurorae, city lights and even lightning strikes.

Go get the full, beautiful story in pictures, videos, a photo gallery and no more than 200 words on Mostly Mute Monday!___

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2016-04-04 14:07:51 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 8 +1s)Open 

  “Even though gravitational waves are a very esoteric feature of a very complicated mathematical theory called General Relativity, which happens to work extraordinary well at explaining the way gravity works, even if you don’t understand the details, I think people can understand the wonder that comes with using these gravitational waves as messengers of understanding some of the most interesting phenomena in the Universe. Looking at two black holes colliding, you don’t expect to be able to observe them, in a general sense, in any other way. So I think there’s an exciting aspect to this, that we’re going to learn more about the Universe and how awe-inspiring it is, using gravitational waves.”

On September 14th, less than 72 hours after being activated at its highest sensitivity ever, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) detected its first unambiguous signalin both dete... more »

  “Even though gravitational waves are a very esoteric feature of a very complicated mathematical theory called General Relativity, which happens to work extraordinary well at explaining the way gravity works, even if you don’t understand the details, I think people can understand the wonder that comes with using these gravitational waves as messengers of understanding some of the most interesting phenomena in the Universe. Looking at two black holes colliding, you don’t expect to be able to observe them, in a general sense, in any other way. So I think there’s an exciting aspect to this, that we’re going to learn more about the Universe and how awe-inspiring it is, using gravitational waves.”

On September 14th, less than 72 hours after being activated at its highest sensitivity ever, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) detected its first unambiguous signal in both detectors, a signal that corresponded to the merger of two massive black holes: 36 and 29 solar masses apiece, merging into a 62 solar mass end state with 5% of its initial mass radiated away into pure energy, in the forms of ripples in space itself. Yet this was the culmination of decades of work designing, developing, testing and implementing such a system. In the end, these ripples in the fabric of space passed through the Earth at the speed of light, compressing and stretching the interferometer’s arms by some thousandths the width of a proton. What was it like, from an insider’s perspective?

I got the opportunity to sit down with Dave Reitze, the executive director of LIGO, and ask some of the deepest questions about the past, present and future of gravitational wave astronomy. Don’t miss it!___

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2016-04-03 21:51:14 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 10 +1s)Open 

"I want to show you a different simulation: one of a supernova conflagration event beginning from an off-axis point in the core. Do you notice how it goes from a one-dimensional “jet” aligned on an axis to — from about 0:30 to 0:50 — subsuming the entire surface of the star? What you’re seeing is an example of heat transport, as propagated by gas and normal matter. Think about it as Huygens’ would have: you have a jet, and at every point along the way, it radiates energy spherically outward. Everything that sphere collides with radiates energy spherically outwards as well. Even if you start with the most aspherical initial conditions of all — a line — you wind up with a spherical distribution in the end. Which is what we see in the X-ray and gamma-ray part of the spectrum, even around our own Milky Way!"

A great week of science resulted in a large number of excellentquestions and c... more »

"I want to show you a different simulation: one of a supernova conflagration event beginning from an off-axis point in the core. Do you notice how it goes from a one-dimensional “jet” aligned on an axis to — from about 0:30 to 0:50 — subsuming the entire surface of the star? What you’re seeing is an example of heat transport, as propagated by gas and normal matter. Think about it as Huygens’ would have: you have a jet, and at every point along the way, it radiates energy spherically outward. Everything that sphere collides with radiates energy spherically outwards as well. Even if you start with the most aspherical initial conditions of all — a line — you wind up with a spherical distribution in the end. Which is what we see in the X-ray and gamma-ray part of the spectrum, even around our own Milky Way!"

A great week of science resulted in a large number of excellent questions and comments, along with some puzzling ones from climate change "skeptics" and some infuriating ones from an anti-evolution creationist. Science holds the answers, and provides the ultimate smackdown. (And okay, maybe I added a little snark of my own at the end.) Come see for yourself on this edition of our Comments of the Week!___

2016-04-03 16:05:31 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

Podcast #6: The most distant galaxy in the Universe

"The Hubble Space Telescope has just shattered the record for most distant galaxy in the Universe. How did we break this record, and what do we expect to find even farther back?"

The newest Starts With A Bang podcast is now live and free to listen and download -- just like all our Podcasts -- thanks to the generous contributions of our Patreon supporters. Help make the magic happen here: https://www.patreon.com/startswithabang?ty=h

Podcast #6: The most distant galaxy in the Universe

"The Hubble Space Telescope has just shattered the record for most distant galaxy in the Universe. How did we break this record, and what do we expect to find even farther back?"

The newest Starts With A Bang podcast is now live and free to listen and download -- just like all our Podcasts -- thanks to the generous contributions of our Patreon supporters. Help make the magic happen here: https://www.patreon.com/startswithabang?ty=h___

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2016-04-02 15:31:07 (8 comments; 0 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

"The wife and I are watching Gravity tonight when this comes up. [See picture, below.] My question is at the point when the tether is stretched tight and they are hanging out in space, why when George releases does he drift away? Weight is at that point equal and is not an issue. The wife thinks because of the mass is different they float in space at different speeds. I’m saying the mass is only an issue when a change in direction is trying to be achieved. So… why does George float away when he unhooked himself?"

Objects in motion remain in constant motion unless acted upon by an outside force. That’s Newton’s 1st law of motion, and that’s why you’d expect an orbiting satellite and two astronauts orbiting with it to have absolutely no relative forces. Yet if you watched the movie Gravity, you saw that the two astronauts, Stone and Kowalski, definitely experienced forcesrelative to... more »

"The wife and I are watching Gravity tonight when this comes up. [See picture, below.] My question is at the point when the tether is stretched tight and they are hanging out in space, why when George releases does he drift away? Weight is at that point equal and is not an issue. The wife thinks because of the mass is different they float in space at different speeds. I’m saying the mass is only an issue when a change in direction is trying to be achieved. So… why does George float away when he unhooked himself?"

Objects in motion remain in constant motion unless acted upon by an outside force. That’s Newton’s 1st law of motion, and that’s why you’d expect an orbiting satellite and two astronauts orbiting with it to have absolutely no relative forces. Yet if you watched the movie Gravity, you saw that the two astronauts, Stone and Kowalski, definitely experienced forces relative to the International Space Station when they were hanging onto it by a tether. Is this a violation of the laws of physics? Analysis shows that adding a small but simple rotation to the ISS could have caused exactly the effects shown in the movie, which is a perfect — if retconned — explanation for what you saw.___

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2016-04-01 15:37:17 (17 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

"But until we fully understand everything in the Universe that affects us, including:

* the full suite of initial conditions under which the Universe was born,
* how each individual mass moved and evolved over time,
* how the Milky Way and all the associated galaxies, groups and clusters formed, and
* how that happened at every point in cosmic history up through the present,
we won’t be able to truly understand our cosmic motion. At least, not without this one trick."

Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity tell us that there’s no Universal, preferred frame of reference. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that our physical Universe doesn’t have an average frame of reference, one which minimizes the relative speeds of all the galaxies to one another. While the Earth rotates, orbits the Sun, which revolves in our galaxy, which moves inthe local... more »

"But until we fully understand everything in the Universe that affects us, including:

* the full suite of initial conditions under which the Universe was born,
* how each individual mass moved and evolved over time,
* how the Milky Way and all the associated galaxies, groups and clusters formed, and
* how that happened at every point in cosmic history up through the present,
we won’t be able to truly understand our cosmic motion. At least, not without this one trick."

Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity tell us that there’s no Universal, preferred frame of reference. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that our physical Universe doesn’t have an average frame of reference, one which minimizes the relative speeds of all the galaxies to one another. While the Earth rotates, orbits the Sun, which revolves in our galaxy, which moves in the local groups, which in turn is gravitationally attracted to all the galaxies, groups and clusters in the Universe, the leftover glow from the Big Bang allows us to reconstruct exactly how fast we move relative to that. And it turns out that there is a particular frame of reference that’s better than all the others, and we’re not at rest relative to it.___

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2016-03-31 19:44:35 (0 comments; 3 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

“The new ALMA images show the disk in unprecedented detail, revealing a series of concentric dusty bright rings and dark gaps, including intriguing features that suggest a planet with an Earth-like orbit is forming there.” -Sean Andrews, P.I. of the latest study

For hundreds of years since the realization that Earth and the other planets orbited the Sun, humanity had only hypotheses about how planets formed around stars. The consensus was that gas clouds collapsed along one direction first, forming a disk, which then rotated and formed instabilities, leading to the development of planetary systems. Thanks to data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array, we’ve successfully imaged the very closest protoplanetary disk to us: TW Hydrae, at just 175 light years away, and it’s not only face-on to us, containing gas giants farther out, but likely at least one planet in theinnermo... more »

“The new ALMA images show the disk in unprecedented detail, revealing a series of concentric dusty bright rings and dark gaps, including intriguing features that suggest a planet with an Earth-like orbit is forming there.” -Sean Andrews, P.I. of the latest study

For hundreds of years since the realization that Earth and the other planets orbited the Sun, humanity had only hypotheses about how planets formed around stars. The consensus was that gas clouds collapsed along one direction first, forming a disk, which then rotated and formed instabilities, leading to the development of planetary systems. Thanks to data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array, we’ve successfully imaged the very closest protoplanetary disk to us: TW Hydrae, at just 175 light years away, and it’s not only face-on to us, containing gas giants farther out, but likely at least one planet in the innermost ~1 A.U. of its solar system.___

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2016-03-31 00:33:47 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 10 +1s)Open 

"Close to the galactic center, the supernova remnant G1.9+0.3 was first discovered in the radio thanks to the Very Large Array (VLA), with its origin unknown. The fact that it was so small on the sky, despite being at a distance of 25,000 light years, brought up the possibility that this was a very young supernova: perhaps the youngest of all supernovae in the Milky Way. Follow-up observations took place in the 2000s with the Two-Micron All-Sky Survey in the infrared and with the Chandra X-ray observatory, where a wonderful surprise came to light: this supernova remnant was expanding at an incredible pace!"

In 1604, Kepler’s supernova went off, the last Milky Way supernova visible to naked-eye skywatchers here on Earth. Yet since the development of radio and X-ray astronomy, other, more recent supernova remnants in our galaxy have been found. They’ve only been invisible to the nakedeye... more »

"Close to the galactic center, the supernova remnant G1.9+0.3 was first discovered in the radio thanks to the Very Large Array (VLA), with its origin unknown. The fact that it was so small on the sky, despite being at a distance of 25,000 light years, brought up the possibility that this was a very young supernova: perhaps the youngest of all supernovae in the Milky Way. Follow-up observations took place in the 2000s with the Two-Micron All-Sky Survey in the infrared and with the Chandra X-ray observatory, where a wonderful surprise came to light: this supernova remnant was expanding at an incredible pace!"

In 1604, Kepler’s supernova went off, the last Milky Way supernova visible to naked-eye skywatchers here on Earth. Yet since the development of radio and X-ray astronomy, other, more recent supernova remnants in our galaxy have been found. They’ve only been invisible to the naked eye because of the galactic gas and dust that blocks their visible light. In 1984/5, the VLA discovered the most recent known remnant near the galactic center, and follow-up observations showed a rapid expansion. The most recent data not only dates this remnant to be only 110 years old, but it teaches us that it’s a Type Ia supernova that formed from the merger of two white dwarfs. The standard model — of one white dwarf accruing matter from a binary companion — may not only be a minority of Type Ia events, perhaps it doesn’t occur at all.___

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2016-03-30 19:01:19 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 10 +1s)Open 

Want to know what's going on in the Universe but only have 5 minutes?

Check out this clip of my interview last night on KGW's news at 7, where we talked about the new ISS module, the most distant galaxy in the Universe, the James Webb Space Telescope, mounting evidence for planet nine... and more!

Want to know what's going on in the Universe but only have 5 minutes?

Check out this clip of my interview last night on KGW's news at 7, where we talked about the new ISS module, the most distant galaxy in the Universe, the James Webb Space Telescope, mounting evidence for planet nine... and more!___

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2016-03-29 21:37:36 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

"In reality, gemstones are simply minerals, and the twelve birthstone minerals have neither positive nor negative prospects for the wearer/possessor (even the radioactive ones!) other than what we bring to it with our own emotions and perceptions. However, each gemstone has a unique physical history, structure and story behind it, and the more we know about it, the more we can appreciate what the natural world truly has to offer and the less mired in superstition we can be. In the end, that’s a victory for science and for us all no matter how you slice it!"

Since ancient times, gems were believed to bestow various traits and good fortunes upon those two whom they were gifted. In more recent times, we’ve associated gems with the time of the year someone was born, assigning each individual month a birthstone associated with it. Yet scientifically, the individual gemstones themselveshol... more »

"In reality, gemstones are simply minerals, and the twelve birthstone minerals have neither positive nor negative prospects for the wearer/possessor (even the radioactive ones!) other than what we bring to it with our own emotions and perceptions. However, each gemstone has a unique physical history, structure and story behind it, and the more we know about it, the more we can appreciate what the natural world truly has to offer and the less mired in superstition we can be. In the end, that’s a victory for science and for us all no matter how you slice it!"

Since ancient times, gems were believed to bestow various traits and good fortunes upon those two whom they were gifted. In more recent times, we’ve associated gems with the time of the year someone was born, assigning each individual month a birthstone associated with it. Yet scientifically, the individual gemstones themselves hold an impressive tale, with a variety of structures, stories and histories behind them all. What we think of as the magnificence or even the defining characteristic of some gems often arise from impurities, and one of the most coveted stones of all — the opal — isn’t even a mineral!___

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2016-03-28 15:08:20 (6 comments; 1 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

“When extremely high-velocity gas clouds collide, the density and temperature both spike, resulting in the emission of energetic X-rays. At the other end of the spectrum, low-energy emissions appear in the radio, as revealed by the Very Large Array here on Earth.”

A galaxy cluster is the largest individual bound structure in the Universe, containing anywhere from dozens to thousands of times the mass of our Milky Way. Yet as the cosmic web grows and evolves, many such clusters merge together, creating the largest cosmic trainwrecks in the Universe. While very little evidence of a catastrophe is visible in the optical, the X-ray and radio emissions from these collisions tell a deep and varied story, and enable astronomers to reconstruct not only what physical processes are at play, but to understand how our large-scale structure evolves over billions of years. Go get the whole story in no moretha... more »

“When extremely high-velocity gas clouds collide, the density and temperature both spike, resulting in the emission of energetic X-rays. At the other end of the spectrum, low-energy emissions appear in the radio, as revealed by the Very Large Array here on Earth.”

A galaxy cluster is the largest individual bound structure in the Universe, containing anywhere from dozens to thousands of times the mass of our Milky Way. Yet as the cosmic web grows and evolves, many such clusters merge together, creating the largest cosmic trainwrecks in the Universe. While very little evidence of a catastrophe is visible in the optical, the X-ray and radio emissions from these collisions tell a deep and varied story, and enable astronomers to reconstruct not only what physical processes are at play, but to understand how our large-scale structure evolves over billions of years. Go get the whole story in no more than 200 words for Mostly Mute Monday!___

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2016-03-27 17:27:31 (5 comments; 1 reshares; 26 +1s)Open 

"As a fun fact, 2015 was the warmest year on record, and approximately 0.1° C was attributable to El Niño. The additional effects of this weather pattern on temperatures only began in the fall, although it is continuing right now, which is why February temperatures were so high. In other words, without El Niño, 2015 would’ve still been the warmest year on record. With it, 2016 is projected to be that next outlier “spike” in temperatures, and when 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 are all cooler than 2016 (and possibly than 2015 and 2014), I expect the “global warming has slowed, paused, stopped or reversed” crowd to start making disingenuous arguments once again, as they were doing ca. 2010."

Two weeks of internet comments to catch up on, when I've taken on topics like climate change, dark matter, the holographic Universe, orphaned planets and quantum physics. What could gowrong? Find ... more »

"As a fun fact, 2015 was the warmest year on record, and approximately 0.1° C was attributable to El Niño. The additional effects of this weather pattern on temperatures only began in the fall, although it is continuing right now, which is why February temperatures were so high. In other words, without El Niño, 2015 would’ve still been the warmest year on record. With it, 2016 is projected to be that next outlier “spike” in temperatures, and when 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 are all cooler than 2016 (and possibly than 2015 and 2014), I expect the “global warming has slowed, paused, stopped or reversed” crowd to start making disingenuous arguments once again, as they were doing ca. 2010."

Two weeks of internet comments to catch up on, when I've taken on topics like climate change, dark matter, the holographic Universe, orphaned planets and quantum physics. What could go wrong? Find out on this edition of our Comments Of The (last two) Week(s)!___

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2016-03-26 14:26:44 (0 comments; 5 reshares; 13 +1s)Open 

“I really like the video [of the Illustris simulation], so much that I hunted down a description... which surprised me: "What appear to be explosions actually come from supermassive black holes blasting jets of material into intergalactic space, carving out huge bubbles." This puzzles me because I expected jets to blast along a single axis; not as a sphere.”

One of the most remarkable features of a great number of giant, active galaxies are the presence of jets of hyper-accelerated matter, spanning thousands of light years. Correlated with feeding, supermassive black holes are these huge structures of light-emitting matter, identifiable from many millions of light years away. Yet our best simulations show that the gas temperature rises around them not in jet-like streams, but rather in spherical explosions around these supermassive black holes. Is there an incredible disconnectbet... more »

“I really like the video [of the Illustris simulation], so much that I hunted down a description... which surprised me: "What appear to be explosions actually come from supermassive black holes blasting jets of material into intergalactic space, carving out huge bubbles." This puzzles me because I expected jets to blast along a single axis; not as a sphere.”

One of the most remarkable features of a great number of giant, active galaxies are the presence of jets of hyper-accelerated matter, spanning thousands of light years. Correlated with feeding, supermassive black holes are these huge structures of light-emitting matter, identifiable from many millions of light years away. Yet our best simulations show that the gas temperature rises around them not in jet-like streams, but rather in spherical explosions around these supermassive black holes. Is there an incredible disconnect between the two pictures? There might have been if you had asked only 15 years ago, but the physics of radiative feedback has evolved tremendously thanks to advances in numerical simulations, allowing us to explain this phenomenon after all.___

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2016-03-25 14:35:58 (5 comments; 7 reshares; 25 +1s)Open 

"When you get a large burst of star formation, you create intense, ultraviolet radiation. When the most massive stars die, they create bursts of supernovae, which ionize matter and accelerate it to near-relativistic speeds. And when you funnel matter into a black hole, it can cause jets, which eject matter into the intergalactic medium. All of these factors are at play in all galaxies, and yet these matter-ejecting effects only touch the normal matter. Because dark matter is transparent to all electromagnetic phenomena, only the normal matter gets ejected whenever you have a star-formation, stellar-death or black-hole-infalling event. On the other hand, these effects simply pass through the dark matter, and so it remains in these low-mass galaxies."

When we look out at the Universe on the largest scales, from large-scale structure to the fluctuations in the CMB to lensed clusters of... more »

"When you get a large burst of star formation, you create intense, ultraviolet radiation. When the most massive stars die, they create bursts of supernovae, which ionize matter and accelerate it to near-relativistic speeds. And when you funnel matter into a black hole, it can cause jets, which eject matter into the intergalactic medium. All of these factors are at play in all galaxies, and yet these matter-ejecting effects only touch the normal matter. Because dark matter is transparent to all electromagnetic phenomena, only the normal matter gets ejected whenever you have a star-formation, stellar-death or black-hole-infalling event. On the other hand, these effects simply pass through the dark matter, and so it remains in these low-mass galaxies."

When we look out at the Universe on the largest scales, from large-scale structure to the fluctuations in the CMB to lensed clusters of galaxies and to giant spirals and ellipticals, we find the same thing everywhere we look: dark matter outmasses normal matter by a 5-to-1 ratio. It’s a finding that’s independent of direction, scale or distance. But when we go smaller, to tiny dwarf galaxies, we find that dark matter plays an even greater role, outmassing normal matter by factors of dozens, hundreds or even thousands-to-one. The tiniest galaxies somehow have the most dark matter, with the smallest galaxies of all containing only a few hundred low-mass stars yet nearly a million solar masses of dark matter. Yet this is no mystery; the physics of how normal matter gets ejected by star formation and other electromagnetic violence while dark matter is unaffected explains it all!___

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2016-03-24 17:51:31 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

"MOND does have a big victory over dark matter: it explains the rotation curves of galaxies better than dark matter ever has, including all the way up to the present day. But it is not yet a physical theory, and it is not consistent with the full suite of observations we have at our disposal. The reason you hear about dark matter is because it can give us the entire Universe, consistently, with the same single modification."

The Sun makes up 99.8% the mass of our Solar System, yet stars account for only about 10-20% of the matter that protons, neutrons and electrons make up. Protons, neutrons and electrons — along with all the other particles known to exist, represented by the Standard Model and what it builds — make up only about 15% of the observed matter. The remainder must be something different that doesn’t interact with electromagnetism or light: dark matter. That’s theconvent... more »

"MOND does have a big victory over dark matter: it explains the rotation curves of galaxies better than dark matter ever has, including all the way up to the present day. But it is not yet a physical theory, and it is not consistent with the full suite of observations we have at our disposal. The reason you hear about dark matter is because it can give us the entire Universe, consistently, with the same single modification."

The Sun makes up 99.8% the mass of our Solar System, yet stars account for only about 10-20% of the matter that protons, neutrons and electrons make up. Protons, neutrons and electrons — along with all the other particles known to exist, represented by the Standard Model and what it builds — make up only about 15% of the observed matter. The remainder must be something different that doesn’t interact with electromagnetism or light: dark matter. That’s the conventional picture. But must that be the case? Is it possible, as an alternative, that we’ve simply got an incomplete theory of gravity, and that there’s no such thing as dark matter after all? While there’s one piece of evidence that supports that possibility, there are a great many other lines of evidence that completely discount it, leaving dark matter as the only viable alternative thus far.___

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2016-03-23 18:16:18 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 18 +1s)Open 

"3.) The second brightest crater on Ceres, Oxo, is the only location that exhibits surface water. This small, 9 kilometer (6 mile) wide crater is most likely very young, as water ice should sublimate in the sunlight on timescales of a few million years at most: much shorter than the lifetime of this world. Either it’s one of the most recent impact craters, and practically all impact craters dredge up subsurface water, or there’s been recent landslide that exposed this water. Future analyses should be able to reveals whether there’s other water-ice on the surface (at lower density than what’s found here), as well as determining whether this is pure water-ice, or whether this is frozen water that’s bound into minerals, making them more stable against sublimation than water-ice on its own."

NASA’s Dawn mission has just revealed a huge suite of data about Ceres, our SolarSystem’s cl... more »

"3.) The second brightest crater on Ceres, Oxo, is the only location that exhibits surface water. This small, 9 kilometer (6 mile) wide crater is most likely very young, as water ice should sublimate in the sunlight on timescales of a few million years at most: much shorter than the lifetime of this world. Either it’s one of the most recent impact craters, and practically all impact craters dredge up subsurface water, or there’s been recent landslide that exposed this water. Future analyses should be able to reveals whether there’s other water-ice on the surface (at lower density than what’s found here), as well as determining whether this is pure water-ice, or whether this is frozen water that’s bound into minerals, making them more stable against sublimation than water-ice on its own."

NASA’s Dawn mission has just revealed a huge suite of data about Ceres, our Solar System’s closest dwarf planet. No longer merely taking pictures, at its orbital altitude of just 240 miles (385 km), it’s now gathering information from many instruments, measuring the chemical composition and neutron/gamma ray fluxes from the surface. Three big surprises have emerged, including a new theory for the salt deposits in Occator crater, the possible existence of sub-surface icecaps at the poles, and a new set of white spots in Oxo crater, which are water-ice after all!___

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2016-03-22 23:50:18 (1 comments; 7 reshares; 36 +1s)Open 

"Before you go getting all excited, realize the following: this might turn out to be nothing! Sure, there’s something fishy going on in this 750 GeV energy range, but the statistics up there are very limited right now. There’s a very good reason that particle physicists don’t claim discoveries of new particles until a certain standard (5σ significance) is reached: the dustbin of history is littered with “discoveries” that turned out to be mere fluctuations in the data that went away with more and better data. That could be exactly what we’re looking at here."

The Standard Model, in its final form, came into being in the 1960s and 1970s. From the time it was proposed in 1964, it took approximately 50 years for all of the particles within to be discovered, culminating with the discovery of the Higgs Boson a few years ago. Yet a number of puzzles, including dark matter,neutrino mas... more »

"Before you go getting all excited, realize the following: this might turn out to be nothing! Sure, there’s something fishy going on in this 750 GeV energy range, but the statistics up there are very limited right now. There’s a very good reason that particle physicists don’t claim discoveries of new particles until a certain standard (5σ significance) is reached: the dustbin of history is littered with “discoveries” that turned out to be mere fluctuations in the data that went away with more and better data. That could be exactly what we’re looking at here."

The Standard Model, in its final form, came into being in the 1960s and 1970s. From the time it was proposed in 1964, it took approximately 50 years for all of the particles within to be discovered, culminating with the discovery of the Higgs Boson a few years ago. Yet a number of puzzles, including dark matter, neutrino masses and the matter-antimatter asymmetry, require new particles that aren’t found in the Standard Model to explain them. Scenarios like supersymmetry, extra dimensions and technicolor are perhaps the most interesting, because they might give rise to particles detectable at the LHC. Right now, both the CMS and ATLAS collaborations see excessive signals at ~750 GeV, about 5 times the mass of the Higgs boson. Could this be a new particle? Or, more likely, is it simply a fluctuation in our data given the limited statistics thus far? The smart money’s on the latter, but we won’t have to wait long: we’ll know for sure after the LHC restarts in May with just a few months of data!___

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2016-03-22 00:56:53 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

"The single greatest is R136a1: 250 times our Sun’s mass. Nine total stars over 100 solar masses, as well as dozens over 50, are found inside. These nine largest stars, combined, outshine the Sun by 30,000,000 times. All will die in catastrophic supernovae, creating massive black holes when they do."

When we look for the brightest, bluest, most massive individual stars, we’re restricted to looking nearby, since it’s impossible to resolve individual stars at distances that extend much beyond our own galaxy. So how surprising is it, then, when the most massive stars we’ve ever found aren’t in our own galaxy, nor in any of the monster galaxies we’ve found nearby, but in a small, satellite dwarf of our own: the Large Magellanic Cloud? The tidal disruption of the Milky Way causes a huge spike in star formation among the neutral gas, and has led to an incredibly rich region of newstars, incl... more »

"The single greatest is R136a1: 250 times our Sun’s mass. Nine total stars over 100 solar masses, as well as dozens over 50, are found inside. These nine largest stars, combined, outshine the Sun by 30,000,000 times. All will die in catastrophic supernovae, creating massive black holes when they do."

When we look for the brightest, bluest, most massive individual stars, we’re restricted to looking nearby, since it’s impossible to resolve individual stars at distances that extend much beyond our own galaxy. So how surprising is it, then, when the most massive stars we’ve ever found aren’t in our own galaxy, nor in any of the monster galaxies we’ve found nearby, but in a small, satellite dwarf of our own: the Large Magellanic Cloud? The tidal disruption of the Milky Way causes a huge spike in star formation among the neutral gas, and has led to an incredibly rich region of new stars, including dozens of stars over 50 solar masses, nine over 100, four over 150 and the most massive one, R136a1, coming in at an incredible 250 times the mass of our Sun. It’s the most massive collection of hot, young stars in the entire known Universe.___

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2016-03-18 15:09:13 (1 comments; 4 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

"If eternal inflation is correct, could dark energy be a precursor to a return to that original state?"

Our Universe began with a period of cosmic inflation: where energy intrinsic to space itself caused an extremely rapid, exponential expansion. This stretched the Universe flat, gave it the same properties, temperature and spectrum of fluctuations everywhere, and then gave rise to the hot Big Bang. And our Universe is ending in a blaze of dark energy, driving the Universe apart with an extremely slow (but accelerating) exponential expansion, that will stretch the Universe flat, and give it the same properties and temperature everywhere. Would it be possible that these two phenomena aren't only related, but that dark energy could result in the Universe recycling itself, creating a new hot Big Bang after a long enough period of time? Realistically, there are two possible ways for... more »

"If eternal inflation is correct, could dark energy be a precursor to a return to that original state?"

Our Universe began with a period of cosmic inflation: where energy intrinsic to space itself caused an extremely rapid, exponential expansion. This stretched the Universe flat, gave it the same properties, temperature and spectrum of fluctuations everywhere, and then gave rise to the hot Big Bang. And our Universe is ending in a blaze of dark energy, driving the Universe apart with an extremely slow (but accelerating) exponential expansion, that will stretch the Universe flat, and give it the same properties and temperature everywhere. Would it be possible that these two phenomena aren't only related, but that dark energy could result in the Universe recycling itself, creating a new hot Big Bang after a long enough period of time? Realistically, there are two possible ways for this to happen, although the data presently don't favor either one.___

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2016-03-17 15:17:48 (2 comments; 12 reshares; 30 +1s)Open 

“So we may have a few rogue planets that were ejected from young solar systems, and there may even be a handful in the galaxy that came from our Solar System. But the vast majority of all the planets in the galaxy were never attached to stars at all! Rogue planets wander the galaxy, most of them destined to toil forever in loneliness, having never known the warmth of a parent star. Their potential parents, most likely, were thwarted by stellar evolution from ever becoming stars themselves! What we have, instead, is a galaxy with most probably around a quadrillion of these nomad worlds, objects which we’re only just beginning to discover. Interstellar space might be devoid of light-emitting objects, but know that there are plenty of worlds to discover on our journey to the stars!”
The planets we know of -- in our own Solar System and beyond -- all have something in common that we routinely takefor g... more »

“So we may have a few rogue planets that were ejected from young solar systems, and there may even be a handful in the galaxy that came from our Solar System. But the vast majority of all the planets in the galaxy were never attached to stars at all! Rogue planets wander the galaxy, most of them destined to toil forever in loneliness, having never known the warmth of a parent star. Their potential parents, most likely, were thwarted by stellar evolution from ever becoming stars themselves! What we have, instead, is a galaxy with most probably around a quadrillion of these nomad worlds, objects which we’re only just beginning to discover. Interstellar space might be devoid of light-emitting objects, but know that there are plenty of worlds to discover on our journey to the stars!”
The planets we know of -- in our own Solar System and beyond -- all have something in common that we routinely take for granted: the fact that they all orbit stars. But not only isn't this necessarily true of all planets, it might not be true for most planets. When we run simulations of planetary formation around stars, we find that a great many planets, of both the gas giant and rocky varieties, get kicked out into interstellar space. But what's even more surprising is that the process of star formation, and particularly the quenching of star formation from UV radiation, could create thousands of planets or more for every single successful star our Universe makes. Come get the whole story on the orphan/rogue/homeless planets in the Universe, and learn how we're finally discovering them for the first time!___

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2016-03-16 15:55:45 (3 comments; 4 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

"Temperature spikes, like the one we’re experiencing now, are temporary, and in all honestly are part of the normal variations we experience over the short term. But the fact that the global average temperature is rising — and that it continues to rise — is a real long-term problem facing the entire world. Don’t let dishonest arguments that gloss over the actual issue dissuade you from the scientific facts. We can fool ourselves into believing that there isn’t a problem until it’s too late to do anything about it, or we can own up to what the science tells us, and face this problem with the full force of human ingenuity. The choice is ours."

Global temperatures have been on the rise not just for decades, but for as long as we’ve been measuring temperatures around the globe: for more than a century. Recently, however, the temperature has spiked to an unprecedented high,similar to wh... more »

"Temperature spikes, like the one we’re experiencing now, are temporary, and in all honestly are part of the normal variations we experience over the short term. But the fact that the global average temperature is rising — and that it continues to rise — is a real long-term problem facing the entire world. Don’t let dishonest arguments that gloss over the actual issue dissuade you from the scientific facts. We can fool ourselves into believing that there isn’t a problem until it’s too late to do anything about it, or we can own up to what the science tells us, and face this problem with the full force of human ingenuity. The choice is ours."

Global temperatures have been on the rise not just for decades, but for as long as we’ve been measuring temperatures around the globe: for more than a century. Recently, however, the temperature has spiked to an unprecedented high, similar to what we saw in 1998. It isn’t due to global warming, on its own, that temperatures are so high this past year. Instead, it’s a combination of long-term climate change and also short-term weather patterns, like El Niño. When the short-term variations change again, we can expect to see a “pause” in the warming again for another 13-15 years, but this will not mean that global warming has stopped! Be prepared for what the science is going to see, and don’t let yourself be taken in by unscrupulous arguments ever again!___

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2016-03-15 17:20:51 (5 comments; 21 reshares; 40 +1s)Open 

"Nowhere in quantum mechanics is information ever transmitted non-locally, so that it jumps over a stretch of space without having to go through all places in between. Entanglement is itself non-local, but it doesn’t do any action – it is a correlation that is not connected to non-local transfer of information or any other observable. When you see a study where two entangled photons are separated by a great distance and then the spin of each one is measured, there is no information being transferred faster than the speed of light. In fact, if you attempt to bring the results of two observations together (which is information transmission), that information can only travel at the speed of light, no faster! What constitutes “information” was a great source confusion in the early days of quantum mechanics, but we know today that the theory can be made perfectly compatible with Einstein’s theoryof Specia... more »

"Nowhere in quantum mechanics is information ever transmitted non-locally, so that it jumps over a stretch of space without having to go through all places in between. Entanglement is itself non-local, but it doesn’t do any action – it is a correlation that is not connected to non-local transfer of information or any other observable. When you see a study where two entangled photons are separated by a great distance and then the spin of each one is measured, there is no information being transferred faster than the speed of light. In fact, if you attempt to bring the results of two observations together (which is information transmission), that information can only travel at the speed of light, no faster! What constitutes “information” was a great source confusion in the early days of quantum mechanics, but we know today that the theory can be made perfectly compatible with Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity in which information cannot be transferred faster than the speed of light."

Quantum mechanics has been described as the spookiest of all the sciences, since it's by far the most divorced from our intuitive reality and everyday experiences. Even though we've been studying it for 100 years, there are still mysteries lurking in quantum phenomena still being uncovered. Yet many of the popular quantum stories people tell -- "spooky" action at a distance, Schrödinger's cat paradox, that everything is discrete and that Einstein never believed it -- are actually way off base.

Thankfully, Sabine Hossenfelder walks us through ten bizarre and fascinating truths about our quantum Universe!___

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2016-03-14 15:34:48 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 13 +1s)Open 

“Earth has a few narrow “windows,” however, where the atmospheric gases allow light of particular wavelength ranges to penetrate. Rather than needing to go to space to map the Universe, we can build ground based telescopes and arrays capable of gathering far more light than a space-based observatory.”

Each time you look at a photograph of the Universe, you aren’t just seeing it as it was at a particular moment in time, but also in a particular wavelength (or set of wavelengths) of light! Different wavelengths can reveal different phenomena and components of the Universe, from dust and gas to starlight, plasma, black holes and beyond. Recently, the ATLASGAL collaboration, using the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX) telescope, a 12-meter sub-millimetre dish atop a 5,100 meter Chilean Plateau, completed their map of the southern Milky Way. Spanning more than 400 square degrees, it isthe most ... more »

“Earth has a few narrow “windows,” however, where the atmospheric gases allow light of particular wavelength ranges to penetrate. Rather than needing to go to space to map the Universe, we can build ground based telescopes and arrays capable of gathering far more light than a space-based observatory.”

Each time you look at a photograph of the Universe, you aren’t just seeing it as it was at a particular moment in time, but also in a particular wavelength (or set of wavelengths) of light! Different wavelengths can reveal different phenomena and components of the Universe, from dust and gas to starlight, plasma, black holes and beyond. Recently, the ATLASGAL collaboration, using the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX) telescope, a 12-meter sub-millimetre dish atop a 5,100 meter Chilean Plateau, completed their map of the southern Milky Way. Spanning more than 400 square degrees, it is the most accurate map of our galaxy in this wavelength of all time, even defeating maps created in space.

Go view the whole remarkable thing in pictures, videos and no more than 200 words on today’s Mostly Mute Monday.___

Buttons

A special service of CircleCount.com is the following button.

The button shows the number of followers you have directly on a small button. You can add this button to your website, like the +1-Button of Google or the Like-Button of Facebook.






You can add this button directly in your website. For more information about the CircleCount Buttons and the description how to add them to another page click here.

Ethan SiegelTwitterFacebookCircloscope