The week in review (September 22-28)

I spent much of the week sick, but that doesn’t stop me. I care about you, people.

  • All black holes, great and small (Galileo’s Pendulum): As my regular readers have probably figured out, I love black holes. I could probably find an excuse to write about them most days. So, why not take an online class from me and learn about black holes? The class begins this Tuesday (October 1), and runs for four one-hour sessions. Sign up today!
  • A Holographic Big Bang: Did the universe start with a five-dimensional black hole? (Slate): Much as I love black holes, however, I cast a skeptical eye on a new paper proposing that the Big Bang had an event horizon. This Slate piece examines what we mean by the “Big Bang model” (which isn’t quite how it’s often described), and the reasons why this five-dimensional theory probably won’t solve the mystery of our Universe’s origins.
  • Scientific grumpfiness and open-mindedness (Galileo’s Pendulum): All three pieces I’ve written for Slate thus far, in addition to a number of other articles published elsewhere, are critical responses to scientific reporting. Generally, I find myself on the opposite side to those who promote radical new theories, which makes me worry sometimes that I’m just a naysayer with no positive commentary to make. Here’s my examination of that worry. (Yes, it’s a bit meta, I suppose.)
  • Pulsar’s magnetic field strong enough to clean up after nuclear explosion (Ars Technica): While pulsars are all fast-spinning objects, some are extremely so, rotating hundreds or thousands of times each second. A new observation caught one of these pulsars in the act of feeding off material from a companion star, lending strong support to the theory of how they spin so fast. Bonus: runaway nuclear explosions! on the surface of a dead star! Who needs science fiction?
  • Snobbish photons forced to pair up and get heavy (Ars Technica): Photons don’t usually interact in the usual sense that matter particles do. Researchers produced a weird medium by pumping a diffuse gas of rubidium atoms with laser light until they puffed up. The result: the interactions between the atoms made an environment where photons have an effective mass (!) and attract each other, forming pairs. Beyond being really cool, this could have all sorts of applications in quantum logic and even “photon materials”.

And just because I can, here’s Cookie Monster playing with his Newton’s cradle again.

Cookie Monster is me brother from another mother.

 

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It’s a 24-hour dance…er, science party!

Please join us tomorrow to raise money so that CosmoQuest can continue to do its good work on science outreach!

Tomorrow, I’ll be spending an hour talking about my work with CosmoAcademy: the online classes offered through CosmoQuest. However, my colleagues Pamela Gay (AKA StarStryder) and Nicole Gugliucchi (AKA the Noisy Astronomer) will be hosting an entire 24 hour fundraising hangout! Please check in tomorrow, watch the conversations, and please please donate if you can. In this era of budget cuts and sequestration, public science education is suffering and you can help. Other guests will include Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer), the Death by Puppets crew, and a variety of scientists!

Ryan Gosling has not endorsed this class, but if he knew about it, he would.

Ryan Gosling has not endorsed this class, but if he knew about it, he would.

OK, one part of that title isn’t true, unless Ryan Gosling signs up for the class in the next few days. There are still spots in my new online class “The Universe in a Box”, beginning next Tuesday, April 2. Sign up today!

Also, we’re beginning another new class at CosmoAcademy: “The Sun and Stellar Evolution“, taught by Ray Sanders. He’ll teach you about the life cycle of stars, from formation to death and beyond, and what our own Sun can tell us about the whole process. The class begins April 15.

Learn cosmology with me and Ryan Gosling

Two BIG THINGS coming up!

A box containing a representative sample of the entire Universe.

A box containing a representative sample of the entire Universe.

April will be a busy month for the Bowler Hat: I begin my new gig as Director of CosmoAcademy in earnest, and I will be traveling to New York City to participate in the ScienceOnline Teen conference. Here’s the scoop:

  • The Universe we inhabit inspires some of the biggest questions about meaning, purpose, origins, and endings. However, the study of the Universe is also a serious science, blending aspects of astronomy and physics into one of the most dynamic areas of research. So, in that spirit, CosmoAcademy is offering a new class: Introduction to Cosmology! The class begins April 2; sign up at our EventBrite page, and check out the details over at CosmoQuest.
  • ScienceOnline Teen is designed to create “connections between students & teachers and the online scientific community and discuss how new media is changing the world of science. The conference is informal and based on conversations, not presentations. So participants will interact during the entire event.  Teens will moderate the sessions and ensure that the topics are teen-driven and teen-focused.” The goal: inspiration. The method: bowler hats science! We’ve got some great people from a variety of backgrounds and interests.