Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

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The Expanse

May 6, 2008

I jotted down this small passage today as it came to me in a brief lull at work.

We don’t even know how big the universe is. We know that it is still expanding (actually, it’s getting quicker at doing this as time – whatever that is – passes). We think that mysterious matter we call “dark energy” makes up 73% of it, but we’re not even sure what this “dark energy” is. We know that there are massive amounts of energy spread throughout the universe, but we’re not sure what ultimate form this energy takes. We’re not sure exactly what time is and how it “passes” (or is that just our perception?). And as this and a myriad of other questions are speculated, theorised or philosophised about by all of us, the striking fact that we are existing amongst this vast expanse of spacetime, matter, energy and each other jumps up and down on my heart as it pumps blood into the reflective consciousness of my mind.

Word.

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Just look up

February 25, 2007

It’s been about a year since I first spotted Saturn through my telescope. It’s true what most people say – the first time you see it, your heart skips a beat at the sight of it. It’s amazing to see this beautiful giant silently sitting there in the night sky. I spotted it again last week from my own backyard looking up into the clear skies of Canberra. Of course, it’s small and a little blurry through my somewhat low-tech Newtonian reflector, but you can still behold the majesty of it. Cassini has been getting up close and personal with Saturn since 2004. Back in 2004 when the Cassini-Huygens craft was approaching Saturn, it sent back an amazing view of it to Earth – a bunch of composite images that formed the most close-up, exquisite and detailed view of the planet we have seen thus far:

Image from here.

Saturn has been nicknamed “The Lord of the Rings” for obvious reasons. However, it is one of the many beautiful things in the night sky. Saturn is relatively easy to spot and instantly recognised. But there are so many things to take pleasure in by just tilting your head up towards the sky after sunset – you don’t even need binoculars or a telescope. On the outskirts of any major city in Australia, you can clearly see the band of the Milky Way stretching across the sky with the naked eye. Get a little further out of the city and your own eyes will pick up the wisps of hot blue stars in the cluster of Pleiades or if your eyes are even more sharp, you’ll catch a milky smudge in the belt of Orion which is of course the famous Orion Nebula.

To catch a glimpse of these stars is to catch a glimpse of the eternity of the universe and all the beautiful things in it. To lie there on your back and take the time to focus on the sky above us is to feel at one with the unbelievably amazing phenomenon that is nature. To be conscious of it all is to feel the true essence of what it means to be alive, to be in existence and to take stock of everything around you while you can.

It’s amazing looking out into the night sky, even without a telescope. It always reminds me of how small and insignificant we are – but at the same time this makes you realise how unique and beautiful we are.

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Saturn’s southern rage

November 11, 2006

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has photographed a massive storm at Saturn’s south pole. The storm is said to be 8,047 kilometres wide – which would cover about two thirds of the surface of Earth. There is some cool footage and a bit more explanation here. This Cassini mission has been amazing – the info just keeps coming.

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Brian Greene on String Theory

July 20, 2006

This video doesn’t really go into the how of string theory much, but for those of you who may be slightly interested, it does describe some of the features and implications of it such as the multiple universes scenario and what not. Greene made a wonderful series a few years back called The Elegant Universe which explained String Theory with remarkable clarity. It is a very difficult subject to understand, but once you start to understand the basics of the idea, it is absolutely fascinating. Enjoy.