Science > Written History > Fortune Telling

One of the reasons I love science is that it actually does allow us to look into the past and future, beyond our existence in the present.  Written history gives us a perspective of a person who was around before any human currently living on Earth, and allows us to piece together the history of our culture.  This is very important, so no disrespect to historians and their work.  Much disrespect to fortune telling though.  It’s a waste of energy involving a person who fishes for information for a living.  But let’s talk about Science. Since we just passed Canada...

Everlasting Light

Light is beautiful.  It illuminates a world of beauty for us to appreciate while giving us a tool to decipher the riddles of the universe.  In astronomy, it’s always about more photons! Because more photons = more data = better results.  But in an increasingly technological world, more photons can be a bad thing.  Especially when the artificial photons overpower the natural. I was lucky to spend most of my youth living away from the bright lights of the city, but with the sprawling metropolis of Toronto to the South, I could always see the orange glow that blocked out...

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...

Comet or Asteroid?

What is the difference between a comet and an asteroid? The typical response is that an asteroid is rocky and a comet is icy/gassy.  Further than this, asteroids typically orbit closer to the Sun than Neptune, and comets orbit beyond this loose dividing line.  But as with everything in nature, there are often exceptions to the rule. C/2014 S3 PANSTAARS is classified as a weakly active comet, originating in the Oort cloud with an orbital period of 860 years.  As it approached the Sun, astronomers noticed that it was lacking the characteristic comet tail, resulting from the blast of solar radiation upon approach to the...

Motivation Monday: The Impossible Made Possible

There is a secret to solving any problem.  You may have learned it in school, but you didn’t know it at the time.  It’s not always explicitly stated in solutions to problems, and you may have done it by accident once or twice.  It is elusive, but seems obvious when you’re aware of it.  If you know how to use it properly, you can turn any impossible task into something doable. The secret is to break things down.  To take any problem, as impossibly huge as it is, and split it into smaller chunks, manageable steps, and workable pieces.  Doing this, any...

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...

Universe Radio on Repeat

Looking at the universe in radio waves is a fascinating sight.  For one, the radio sky is very weak; If you placed your cellphone on the Moon facing back at Earth, it would be brighter than all other radio sources in the entire sky by a factor of a million.  But as with every other part of the electromagnetic spectrum, it has scientific value in studying the sky.  Over the past decade, astronomers have been identifying several Fast Radio Bursts (FRB), short bursts of radio waves from different places in the universe that last for a few short seconds.  These are...

Planetary Nebulae

Some of the most gorgeous, ghostly, and variable objects in the universe are planetary nebulae.  They are all formed in a similar process, as a low-mass star (like our Sun) sheds it’s outer layers of gas and dust, heating them to a glow as they disperse over hundreds of millions of years.  A few Billion years from now, the Sun will undergo the same major state change.  When this happens, perhaps other species in the far future will gaze upon it and marvel at its beauty. One of the difficulties in studying a planetary nebula is measuring it’s distance from...

Extreme Events: When Black Holes Collide

New science has come forward from a team of astronomers who, earlier this year, discovered a pair of black holes in a close orbit, heading toward a cataclysmic merger.  The new results suggest that this incredibly powerful collision will occur much sooner than previously thought, as little as 100,000 years from now (A blip on the radar of astronomical timescales). By precisely calculating the individual and relative masses of the black holes, the team was able to predict how the merger would take place, giving a time line for the collision. The astronomers, from Columbia University, saw bright flashes of light...

Saturnian Symmetry

With more than a decade of observations, the Cassini spacecraft has redefined our understanding of the ringed giant Saturn and its diverse moons.  Continually working and returning new data, it has achieved significant scientific milestones, along with it’s partner probe Huygens, which dropped down through the thick clouds of mighty moon Titan’s atmosphere in early 2005.  Along with a new scientific understanding comes views never-before-seen by human eyes, revealing the artful dance between the gas giant, its moons, and its incredible ring system.  One of my favourite photos shows the incredibly beautiful symmetry of the rings. The rotational symmetry in...