(A dialog between two extraterrestrials entering a new, unexplored solar system. Translated from their native Hexa-Dimensional Hru-ru)
“Captain, we examined the gas planet with the fantastic rings.”
“Yes. No biomarkers, even though it seems perfect for life: mostly hydrogen and helium, with traces of methane, ammonia and water. Temperature is minus 279 Fahrenheit, windspeeds 1,100 miles an hour.”
“Sounds like heaven. Damn! We’re were so close.”
Let’s face it. Spend months on a desolate island in the Pacific looking at the beaks of Galapagos finches and before long, you might begin to realize something is going on there. Naturalist Charles Darwin did and it led to the theory of natural selection. Those individuals with heritable traits better suited to the environment will survive.
That’s not the way my father saw things in the natural world. He had his own rules that made you worthy of passing on your genes. Continue reading
Since I’m a firm believer in science and humor, I thought I would take a different tack to all the eulogies being made across the Internet since the passing of the great physicist last Wednesday. Instead, I offer you a wonderful interview that TV funnyman John Oliver had with Steven Hawking on Last Week Tonight in 2014. Continue reading
A few years ago, I made a trip to the Mount Wilson observatory high above Pasadena, California. It’s where some of the greatest discoveries of 20th century astronomy took place.
It’s also where we humans got taken down a peg or two from our lofty, self-awarded importance in the cosmos. Continue reading
For most people, the word vacation conjures up visions of tanned carcasses parked on comfy lounge chairs in the Caribbean, sipping tropical drinks bristling with paper umbrellas and colorful straws.
I don’t buy into that illusion. Continue reading
Richard Feynman, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, could look at a simple tree and see much more than some roots, a trunk, branches and leaves. He understood and marveled at where they came from. The answer isn’t what you think.
Feynman said that trees come mostly out of the air.
Before you sputter in laughter and point in ridicule, you need to know that he’s correct.
We’ve been sending radio and television signals into space for decades without giving it much thought.
Maybe we should. Continue reading
My mother never understood the wave-particle duality of electromagnetic phenomena. She had no interest in the fact that objects traveling near the speed of light shortened in their direction of motion. And she never grasped how an airplane managed to stay up in the air at all, even though her husband flew planes for a living. Continue reading
Life, the universe and everything answered in these terrific videos.
At the moment of his death, Belgian astronomers registered a lightning-bolt-shaped constellation of stars for David Bowie, in honor of the iconic photograph of him as Ziggy Stardust on his Aladdin Sane album. I’ve always suspected that he was a hyperintelligent extraterrestrial. There’s no other way to explain his phenomenal talent.
I chanced on this great website while looking for, as usual, all things scientific. Besides great podcasts (the one that led me here was about parallel universes…a subject near and dear to a sci-fi writer’s heart), studio 360 has articles, videos and blogs about current music, books, movies, and other pop culture happenings with a good dose of comedy thrown in (another subject near and dear to my heart as a comedy writer). It’s kind of like an alter-ego to another podcast favorite, Radiolab. Best of all: it has a separate page for science and technology, containing for example, videos of Darth Trump, artists at CERN, and what dark matter would look like if you could draw it.
Human ingenuity will never cease to amaze me. And neither will the way that science makes its way into nearly every facet of our daily lives.
Especially when it comes to extreme sports. In fact, from wingsuit base jumping to ice climbing, these unbelievable sports wouldn’t exist without making use of scientific principles.
Take what I’ve been seeing more and more off the coast of California in the last year.
Kite surfing is nothing new. You combine a huge inflatable, curved kite and a short surfboard and you go sailing across the top of the water.
At some point, someone must have said to themselves: “This is really great, but I want to go faster. And I want to take advantage of really windy days, but not put up with the choppy surf that high winds create.
Someone, somewhere, must have seen—or ridden—on a hydrofoil boat and noticed that it provides a smooth ride even on choppy seas, it cruises much faster, and turns quicker.
Some smart person attached a hydrofoil to a surfboard and a new sport was born. It makes you do a double take, watching a person sailing three or four feet above the water.
So what’s next?
Once we humans make traveling into space an everyday thing, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see someone whizzing by at a million miles an hour on solar wind sail.
And after that? It’s anyone’s guess. Black hole base jumping? Pulsar catapults?
(If you’re really interesting in the principle of using foils to lift a boat, here’s what MIT says about it: hydrofoils
Those aren’t my words about the great theoretical physicist. They’re his.
Unable to find work after graduating from the Zürich Polytechnic with a teaching diploma, he wrote to his sister and said that it would have been better had he never been born.
Can you imagine?
The job he eventually got as a lowly clerk at the patent office in Bern gave him what he really needed besides a paycheck: time to think. He put his time there to good use, indulging in his thought experiments, and writing the three papers that changed how we understand the universe. Even after these papers were published, they weren’t universally accepted. It took time. Many years, in fact.
The key thing was, he never gave up.
For those of you still waiting tables or tending bar or working retail, hang in there. If you have talent, the only other thing you need is a belief in yourself. And a little patience.
Interesting fact as the New Horizons probe approaches Pluto, it carries a payload I never would have guessed: some of the ashes of the man who discovered it: Clyde W. Tombaugh. Well done, Clyde. Much better than having your ashes spread over actor George Clooney, as I am planning with mine.