The Song of Saturn

There are some places in the world where it seems to be easy to capture beautiful images. When I travelled in Turkey, I felt like I could have aimed my camera blindfolded and came away with great images. It seems there are similar places of excessive beauty in the solar system, and Saturn is one…

Three TED Talks for Cloudy Nights

TED is just great. Of course I think that. I’m a nerd. TED is hard-core nerd. So is Prezi, the fluid online presentation platform that many TED speakers use to great effect. TED isn’t perfect. They bungled Nick Hanauer’s talk on how rich people don’t generate jobs, for example. But overall, the internet, and our…

A Galaxy of Planets

As far as we know, it was Galileo who first aimed a telescope at the night sky. This is easy to believe, since we can imagine that most other men of Galileo’s time were interested more in enemy encampments, brothel windows, and then, maybe, and a very distant third, the night sky.* Galileo was a…

Scales of the Universe

How big is the universe? How small is the smallest thing? How does Ganymede compare in size to Texas, and to a sunflower seed? Cary Huang put this together over a year and a half, assisted by his twin brother Michael. They are 14 years old, and live in California. You should take a look…

Conjunction Function? Looking Pretty!

Have you noticed bright lights in the western sky, soon after sunset? Maybe you heard something somewhere about a planetary alignment. Maybe the Weekly World News you glanced at (first looking around to make sure nobody was watching) in the checkout line said something about the alignment, Bat Boy, Mel Gibson and the Mayan Calendar…

Aresforming: The fine art of mucking up a wet planet

If you are a Mars-head like I am, you spend a lot of time thinking about terraformingĀ Ares (the greek name for Mars). That is, making a pretty cold, thin atmosphere into a thicker, balmier one and planting a bunch of palm trees and laying some shuffleboard courts down and then just waiting for the first…

How big is the biggest star? Freakin’ BIG!

One of the great challenges, and thus joys, of studying the universe is getting a sense of the scale of what you’re looking at. We are very tiny. The universe is very large. Language begins to fail here. Large is the smallest cup of coffee you can get at most American coffee shops. We’re talking…