A Surprising Pan

You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now.  Every time I think I’ve seen it all, that I’ve seen every strange phenomenon in space, every unique planet, moon, star, galaxy, every variation, I’m proven wrong.  I expect that the order has been established and everything newly discovered will fall into a category with no more unique variation. But here we are again.  The close up view of Pan. Pan was photographed only a few days ago by the Cassini spacecraft as it carries out the final months of it’s mission to Saturn.  It was revealed to be a...

Review: Planetary

On the heels of my last review, I watched another movie with a space-documentary theme.  Though it started out with the human perspective from space, it progressed into so much more.  This is the TVO documentary called Planetary. It began with Apollo.  Humanity broke the bonds of our world and set foot on another heavenly body.  For the first time, we could look back and see the world as it truly is.  One of my favourite quotes from the movie came up early, though I’m paraphrasing: We are the Earth, and the Earth is all of us.  Seeing the Earth...

Motivation Monday: The Shared Path

“No man is an island; entire of itself; Every man is a piece of the continent.” -John Donne It’s easy to feel alone sometimes.  We feel as if our feelings of anger, shame, or sadness are ours alone.  The rest of the world, in the meantime, is happy, confident, and energetic.  As a counter to this you’ve probably heard that we compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.  Well not only is that true, but it’s also true that we are not the only ones to feel these emotions.  We, as humans, never realize how much deeper our similarities...

The Essence of Science and the Fringes of Reality

Data is fascinating.  And what’s even more fascinating is that the laws of nature produce predictable patterns in data.  For example, if you toss a coin 100 times and measure how many times heads comes up, you’ll get a number between zero and 100.  If you repeat that experiment again and again and again, you’ll get different values each time, but usually the number will be around 50, and 50 will come up more than any other value if you repeat the experiment enough times.  If you plot this data, with the # of heads in 100 coin tosses on...

Saturn Double Shot 1/2: Less-Than-Ancient Moons

It’s always funny explaining astronomical time to a non-scientist.  I often get the craziest looks when I mention a million years as being a ‘blip on the radar.’  Perhaps there is some immortal alien race out there who would understand how nothing much happens on the scale of the universe in a million years.  To humanity and our ever-accelerating advancement, a million years is thrice the age of our entire species.  But I guess Einstein was right when he said that ‘it’s all relative.’ This brings us to Saturn, a planet as ancient as the solar system.  Moderately old in...

Flight of the Ionic Phoenix

I’ve spent the last couple of days as a zombie due to the time change, but now that I feel like myself, I’ve got some catch-up posts to do.  The first one has to do with today’s APOD. Can you spot the phoenix shape? It doesn’t mean anything special, it’s just the way our brains see the patterns of light from this gorgeous aurora in Iceland.  Ionization of atmospheric gases from charged solar particles doesn’t sound as glamorous as ‘phoenix aurora,’ but I still appreciate the scientific beauty of it.  Human beings are excellent at pattern recognition, and so we...

The Ancient Martian Shift

It takes a long time for things to change in the Universe.  Time takes on an entirely different role when it comes to the lives of planets, stars, and galaxies.  A million years in the life of a star or planet is the equivalent of a single day in the life of a human being.  Human lifetimes come and go while stars and planets stay pretty much the same.  However, just like human lives, where many days can build up to an important event, millions of years of lead-up can produce some incredible changes to a planet or star.  New...

Solar Burp

We know that the giant bright light in the sky that keeps us warm is so much more than we can see.  A star, like countless others in the sky, close enough to outshine all of them.  The Sun is a dynamic object, endlessly churning and burping plasma beyond it’s boundaries into the solar system and beyond.  NASA spacecraft and ground-based telescopes have been keeping eyes on the Sun for years to characterize its 11-year magnetic cycle.  And every so often they have a front-row seat to the massive blasts that just can’t be seen with human eyes. The first...

A New Theory of Life: Physics to Evolution

When Isaac Newton quantified gravity, his theory explained how everything in the world around us behaved in its presence.  It opened a door to an understanding of something fundamental, yet elusive in explanation.   Centuries later, Einstein came along and took a step back, finding a larger more comprehensive theory of gravity, one that explained the strange things that happen in the grand universe.  His theory could even explain things that Newton’s theory of gravity could not, such as the odd orbit of Mercury around the Sun.  But the greatest part of Einstein’s theory is that if you use it to...

X-Ray Vision

If you actually had the ability to see X-Rays, the world around you would look pretty boring.  Actually it would be invisible, since nothing around you gives off X-rays.  You might be able to see an imaging device if you live or work near a medical office, but that’s about it.  If you looked at the night sky, you would see many interesting sources of X-Ray light, mostly from active black holes in our own galaxy and beyond.  Recently a high-resolution scan of the Andromeda Galaxy revealed a plethora of sources, showing where black holes and neutron stars are feeding...