Why We All Use the Same Units

Here is a map of the nations of the world that use the two systems of measurement.  Metric shown in blue and imperial shown in red. While it’s not always good to go with the crowd, there is a reason why more nations use the metric system. An often-cited passage from the book Wild Thing by Josh Bazell: “In metric, one milliliter of water occupies one cubic centimeter, weighs one gram, and requires one calorie of energy to heat up by one degree centigrade—which is 1 percent of the difference between its freezing point and its boiling point. An amount...

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...

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 it’s presence.  It opened a door to an understanding of something fundamental, yet elusive in explanation.   Then Einstein came along and too a step back, finding a larger more comprehensive theory of gravity, one that explained the strange things that happen in the grand universe, and could even explain things that Newton’s gravity could not, such as the odd orbit of Mercury around the Sun.  The greatest part of Einstein’s theory is this: If you use it to describe every day objects, it...

Imaging Spotlight: Thor’s Helmet in Space

In Canis Major, nearly 12,000 light years from Earth, lies an emission nebula that always makes me think of a particular comic book character.  NGC 2359 is 30 light years across, and is colloquially known as Thor’s Helmet. The complex structure of Thor’s helmet consists of bubbles and filaments, and is due to a series of bursts from the massive star HD 56925.  This star is a rare Wolf-Rayet star, which consistently expels its outer layers of gas at high velocities, and is characterized by its very high temperature. The blue bubble in the above image is a result of...