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Weekend Diversion: Is There Anybody Out There?

October 18, 2008 on 11:39 am | In Random Stuff, Solar System, Video | 3 Comments

I finally found the time to go out an get an electric guitar; my old Ibanez had been on the fritz for over a year, and I just haven’t been on the ball. Here’s my “professional” (e.g., on the internet, possibly still in my pajamas on a Saturday morning) debut. I thought it’d be nice to take a beautiful Pink Floyd song that’s also a very profound question, and show you, in a video, a little bit about where living things could be in our Solar System, if, in fact, there is anybody out there…

Enjoy your weekend!


Genesis Teaser Trailer is Up!

April 18, 2008 on 2:05 am | In Video, big bang | 3 Comments

What is the future of this website? I’m going to be creating videos for the web about the Universe. I’ll be answering questions ranging from what the Universe is like today to how it got to be that way. I’m going to address every step that we know of, from the Big Bang up to the present day.

And I’m going to do it naturally, by telling the story as the Universe tells it directly to us. I call this project Genesis. Check out the teaser trailer below, and tell your friends, because this is coming in January.



Afraid of the Dark?

March 11, 2008 on 12:03 pm | In Dark Matter, Video | 3 Comments

So I gave a public lecture last (Monday) night called, “Afraid of the Dark: How We Know What We Can’t See” and videotaped it. Now, I’m pretty good at what I’m doing right now (research in theoretical cosmology), but I’m really good at public speaking and teaching, and here is me telling a public audience all about dark matter, how we know it exists, what makes it different from normal matter, and what I’m trying to do to find it/discover its nature for a good 40 minutes. (The intro and question/answers are cut out).

It was a lot of fun; the audience was wonderful, and actually kept me for more than a half hour after my talk ended, asking questions that they were curious about! The video and audio qualities are not the best, but if you have 40 minutes and a pair of headphones at work, check it out. We’ve got a (60 Meg) video of the event right here… enjoy!

Alternatively, you can see it in 4 separate youtube parts (below):





Weekend Diversion: Video Editing = Musical Talent?

March 8, 2008 on 2:05 am | In Random Stuff, Video | No Comments

Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to need to learn video editing to make this outreach thing work. I might do well to follow the lead of this guy, who’s a Norwegian named Lasse Gjertsen, and who’s posted a video of him “playing drums and piano.”

Well, playing drums and piano kinda. But damn, I would love to have those editing skills…


Bring him to me!

February 29, 2008 on 3:06 pm | In Astronomy, Gravity, Physics, Video | 2 Comments

The Milky Way galaxy is a relatively big spiral galaxy. So is Andromeda. There are about 20 dwarf galaxies that are gravitationally bound to us; combined with us, all of this makes up the local group. But Andromeda is moving towards us, and eventually, it’s going to merge with us. I’ll once again show you a video of what this merger might look like:

But what would we see, here in the Milky Way, as Andromeda got closer and closer to us? Right now, Andromeda looks like this:

But Andromeda is also very far away: about 2.3 million light years (770 kpc). The center of it is tiny on the sky, but the whole galaxy, as seen above, is actually 4 degrees across, or eight times larger than the diameter of the full moon! Its apparent magnitude is 4.4, which means it can barely be seen with the naked eye (anything less than 6 can be seen with your eye) if your vision is good and there’s no light pollution.

But the Universe will continue to age, and gravity will basically tell Andromeda “Get over here!” When this happens, Andromeda not only gets closer to us, but also starts to appear bigger and brighter in the sky. What does this mean? Let’s play Zeno’s Paradox, and see what happens when it gets halfway to us, and then halfway of that distance, etc.

  • About 1.9 billion years from now, Andromeda will be 385 kpc away from us. It now has an apparent magnitude of 2.9, which means it’s just barely visible from most urban neighborhoods, and appears slightly brighter than our own Milky Way does. It now takes up 8 degrees on the sky, making it 16 times as large as the Moon in diameter.
  • About 2.7 billion years from now, it will be within 190 kpc of us. That’s still well outside the Milky Way, which is less than 20 kpc in radius. It’s now quite bright, though, with an apparent magnitude of 1.4, making it as bright as one of the brightest stars in the sky, Regulus. It is now 16 degrees on the sky. If, at this point, it were oriented face-on to us, it would take up about 1% of the entire visible night sky.
  • About 3.2 billion years from now, it will be under 100 kpc from us. It now takes up 1/20 of the entire night sky, and only the Moon, the Planets, and three stars, Sirius, Canopus, and Alpha Centauri are brighter than Andromeda appears.
  • 3.4 billion years from now, Andromeda will be within 50 kpc of us, on the verge of beginning to merge with us. (Remember, it has a radius of about 20 kpc, too.) Its apparent magnitude is -1.5, meaning that it is now brighter than any star in the sky. It will now take up about one-fifth of the night sky, and will just begin to create new star-forming regions in the outskirts of the galaxies, where the gas begins to merge.

And then the merger happens. What will that do to us? Take a look:

Although we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s a good bet that we won’t want to be here for it. Time to find a new galaxy… or at least a temporary home outside of ours while that merger takes place!


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