These are exciting times. Every few months astronomy surprises us with insights into ancient secrets. New telescopes are scanning galaxies throughout the visible universe. Most galaxies are mind-bogglingly far away. Exactly how far has long been a fundamental issue. But we just got a whole new way to measure it. Today the universe is much […]
Tag Archives: gravity
There’s gold in them thar hills; and there’s much more where it came from.
In 1849, gold gave a kick start to the new State of California. Its non-native population grew 100-fold in a single year. Its miners soon took 300 tons of gold ($12 billion at today’s prices) from the ground. How did the gold get there? A few months ago, an extraordinary event—maybe the most widely studied […]
Albert Einstein showed that space has shape. Let’s take a look at this esoteric concept.
We now know that, far from being nothing, space is a something. Indeed space is a much more substantial something than the average density of all the matter that we see in the universe. We also know that space has shape as Albert Einstein showed. But what is the shape of space? How are we […]
This physicist discovered four-fifths of all the matter in the universe but managed to miss out on a Nobel Prize
Vera Rubin was a very rare bird forty years ago: a female astronomer. Galaxies were her life’s work. In her day the notion that there are many galaxies outside our own was only a few decades old. Inspired by her ‘just plain old curiosity’, her PhD thesis suggested galaxies are not scattered randomly: they come […]
How high will sea levels rise? The answers are worth understanding if we care about our children’s world.
Seas are rising. It is no longer a question of whether this will be a problem. It is a matter of: How high and how fast? Recent science has both uncertainty and answers. Together they explain why geopolitics may soon become a much more common word. Science studies evidence of two kinds of steady sea-level […]
Major sea-level rise is on the way and entire cities will be flooded.
The world’s last great ice sheet is in the process of collapsing. This is not about climate change. It is about gravity and unstable foundations. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) will raise North America’s sea levels ten feet when it goes. It will shift some shorelines inland many miles. A new study sets out […]
New Light On the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe Rethinking the origin of supermassive black holes
Quadrillions of galaxies make up some structures in the universe. How did such structures arise? How do the galaxies that they are made of grow? As Winston Churchill said of Russia, this is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Now primordial black holes offer us new hope of an answer. What is […]
What Made the Big Bang Big? What Made the Big Bang Bang? A radical rethinking of our understanding of the universe
Two weeks ago we took a look at a question from systems engineer Muralidharan Thiyagarajan. Referring to the observation that space everywhere is expanding, he asks: ‘What creates the space?’ My answer is: At the Planck level (named for German physicist Max Planck who first described it) where space is made of incredibly tiny quanta, […]
The Search for the Mystery Planet
A new mystery planet is in the astronomic news. It is a real mystery. But is it a real planet? First the mystery: Planet X, as some are calling it, is thought to roam outside the orbit of Pluto (which was recently demoted to dwarf from ninth-planet status). So far no-one has seen Planet X. […]