The Great American Eclipse of 2017

For three years I’ve been talking about this eclipse.  August 21st, 2017 is a date that feels etched into my skull.  With solar eclipses being few and far between, and usually occuring far from my home in Canada, I’m excited that the great american eclipse of 2017 will be within my budget for travel.  Though like many people, I’m ready to pay a bit extra to get to the right spot. The eclipse is expected to draw over 100 million people to the many towns and cities along the path of totality. Though most of the population of North America...

Motivation Monday: Uncertainty

In the world of science, there is no definite measurement.  In any quantity, there is what we call an uncertainty.  In a simple example, let’s say you were using a ruler to measure the length of a rope.  You line up the rope along the ruler, and take a reading.  But how sure are you that the rope was perfectly lined up with the end of the ruler? How certain are you that your reading was correct? There is always uncertainty.  It extends more broadly in life. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve been in the working...

Pi Written on a Pi Pie on Pi Day

Whether you’re looking for an excuse to eat dessert or just love mathematics, March 14th is a good day for geeks, nerds, and the rest of the world too.  The third month and the fourteenth day, 3.14, is known as Pi day, after the simplest and most ubiquitous constant in nature (no disrespect to c, e, g, or h).  Defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference and it’s diameter, Pi is an irrational number, meaning there is no end to its digits.  Most people know 3.14159, but some people have memorized hundreds more digits.  Mathematicians armed with supercomputers have calculated Pi to...

Where are you? The Moon can tell you!

I was out on a sunny day a few weeks ago waiting for a bus, and as per usual I have my head up in space (I would say up in the clouds but that is too low for me).  I noticed the Moon up in the sky, just past first quarter, and I was thinking about the angle of the illuminated side and how it related to some of the positions of the Earth and Sun in space.  I wondered what information we could gather from the way it looked.  It led me to this ‘illuminating’ post. I realized...

One Night with Mars, One with Venus – The Moving Moon

Yesterday I posted some of my own photos of the Moon and Mars in conjunction from the night before.  Last night I went out again knowing that there was another planetary conjunction in the works.  The Moon was now with Venus.  People on the internet and in person were asking me “Mars? I thought the Moon was near Venus,” and “Venus? I thought the Moon was near Mars.”  It really speaks to the fact that most people don’t realize how quickly the sky changes from the point of view of an Earthbound observer.  So what happened between the Mars-Moon and...

Simulating the Universe and Everything in it

You might think simulating the entire Universe is difficult, and it is, but not for the reasons you would think.  The Physics is actually somewhat straightforward.  We know the math behind star formation, Gravity, and fluid dynamics, and throwing in a few other effects is not too bad.   The hard part is finding a computer powerful enough to do the calculations in a reasonable amount of time. Think about it.  Imagine having a universe of 100 Billion ‘particles’ used for a simulation.  Each particle has a starting point, and that it pretty easy to do.  But then for every...

A Solar Flare vs. All the Holiday lights on Earth: Which has more energy?

I’ve talked at length about Solar Flares.  They are massively energetic, and due to the Sun’s 11 year maximum period of activity, we have seen a lot of powerful ones this year.  With the holidays in full swing, sometimes the Universe can put up its own lights.   Which is More Powerful? A Solar Flare or all the Lights on Earth during the season? First of all, we need to figure out how much energy lights produce, and roughly how many homes put them up, and for how long.  We will have to make some assumptions, but we will start...