Finding an image for this week’s show was a bit challenging. But, it’s hard to resist some of the work coming out of NASA and JPL when talking with a physicist and a novelist about "the mystery we are":
This artist’s concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun. Supermassive black holes are enormously dense objects buried at the hearts of galaxies. (Smaller black holes also exist throughout galaxies.) In this illustration, the supermassive black hole at the center is surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole in what is termed an accretion disk. This disk forms as the dust and gas in the galaxy falls onto the hole, attracted by its gravity.
Also shown is an outflowing jet of energetic particles, believed to be powered by the black hole’s spin. The regions near black holes contain compact sources of high energy X-ray radiation thought, in some scenarios, to originate from the base of these jets. This high energy X-radiation lights up the disk, which reflects it, making the disk a source of X-rays. The reflected light enables astronomers to see how fast matter is swirling in the inner region of the disk, and ultimately to measure the black hole’s spin rate.
Too choice not to reblog.
We had to cut quite a few stellar moments from Krista Tippett’s conversation with theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss for the radio show and podcast. He’s a devoted atheist who has some provocative things to say about religion, the Higgs field, our country’s literacy about science and how it should be talked about in the same way as we discuss film or the arts.
Our unedited interview with him allows for the fullest listening, and it’s definitely worth your time.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
"Let us unite, let us hold each other tightly, let us merge our hearts, let us create — so long as the warmth of this Earth endures, so long as no earthquakes, cataclysms, icebergs or comets come to destroy us — let us create for Earth a brain and a heart, let us give a human meaning to the superhuman struggle.” —Nikos Kazantzakis, Second Duty
Mission scientist Natalie Batalha of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Mission paired these words with this dramatic photo of the constellation Orion as it rises over El Castillo, the central pyramid at Chichén Itzá, one of the great Mayan centers on the Yucatán peninsula, as posted on Astronomy Picture of the Day:
“Also known as the Temple of Kukulkan it stands 30 meters tall and 55 meters wide at the base. Built up as a series of square terraces by the pre-Columbian civilization between the 9th and 12th century, the structure can be used as a calendar and is noted for astronomical alignments. In fact, the Mayans were accomplished astronomers and mathematicians, accurately using the cyclic motions of the stars, Sun, Moon, and planets to measure time and construct calendars. Peering through clouds in this night skyscape, stars in the modern constellation Orion the Hunter represented a turtle in the Mayan sky.”
(Photo by Stéphane Guisard, D. Flores, B. Pichardo, P. Sánchez, and R. Nafate)
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Oftentimes, for many of us, our way into the world of science is through gazing at the night skies, through astronomy, through NASA. We’re drawn to space and frontiers only limited by our imaginations. Natalie Batalha, a mission scientist on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, brings this same sense of childhood astonishment and wonder to us in our show, "On Exoplanets and Love."
This week’s sketchnotes by Doug Neill captures moments of her insights that, we hope, will lure you into listen and read. Quotations from Carl Sagan and rainbows in oil puddles are only the tip of the iceberg with this show. I encourage you to print it out, hang it on your door or in your office. Share with others. Listen and talk about what you see and what you heard.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, Natalie Batalha hunts for exoplanets (yes, she’s a planet hunter!) — Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system that might harbor life. She speaks about unexpected connections between things like love and dark energy, science and gratitude, and how “exploring the heavens” brings the beauty of the cosmos and the exuberance of scientific discovery closer to us all.
Can you say ethereal? Trophygeek took this photograph of a lone Perseid meteor over Sutro Tower in San Francisco on Monday night, adding:
"I happened to be checking on the camera when it happened so I saw it too! Set up the camera to take 8 second exposures all night and caught this large meteor as it streaked over San Francisco. The lights near the tower are cars up on Twin Peaks shining their headlights into the fog."
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Black Holes and the Sonic Song of the Universe
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
As Gordon Hempton points out, silence isn’t necessarily an absence of sound but a presence all its own. And, in much the same way, physicist Janna Levin says, space isn’t necessarily quiet either. Working at her lab at Columbia University, she projects that the universe creates an aural footprint that “will be music to our ears because it will be the quiet echo of that moment of our creation of our observable universe.” If we can only pick it up…
In this presentation at TED 2011, she plays her projections of the sounds the universe makes — black holes merging and falling into one another, the “white noise of the Big Bang. It’ll make you wonder about the biggest questions at the core of what it means to be a sentient being in this universe or the next.
A Monday morning astronomy fix from discoverynews:
Good photography is not just about timing. It also depends on good positioning. Case in point? This view of a spiral galaxy, which is fortuitously positioned edge-on relative to the view from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
The galaxy, officially known as NGC 2683, was nicknamed the “UFO Galaxy” by astronomers at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory in Cocoa, Fla.
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
String Theorist S. James Gates: A Twitterscript
by Susan Leem, associate producer
S. James Gates is known for pioneering supersymmetry, a theory that could “explain some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, such as how elementary particles got their mass.” There’s actually a symmetry between these two fundamental entities that compose the universe, invisible partners with names like selectrons (partner of electrons) and photinos (partner of photons). Gates shares with us a scientist’s rich, connected way of looking at the universe, “where we become essential to the universe.”
We live-tweeted highlights of this 90-minute conversation and have aggregated them below for those who weren’t able to follow along. Look for our show with him in the coming weeks, and follow us next time at @BeingTweets.
- "My understanding of the word ‘space’ is so different than my understanding of space at age 4 or age 8." -Professor James Gates 1:10 PM, 25 Jan
- “I ended up at MIT which itself was a dream…a school where you studied the good stuff.” -Professor James Gates 1:14 PM, 25 Jan
- "It’s about balance…we humans, it seems like we’re coded to look for symmetry." - Professor James Gates 1:19 PM, 25 Jan
- "It shows up in our art and music, but if the world were perfectly symmetrical we could not exist." -Professor James Gates 1:25 PM, 25 Jan
- "The Higgs particle we believe is responsible for the creation of mass for everything else in the universe." -James Gates 1:26 PM, 25 Jan
- "With string theory we have a view of the universe where we become essential to the universe." -Professor James Gates 1:30 PM, 25 Jan
- "We become part and parcel of what our universe is in a way I’ve never seen done in science before." -Professor James Gates 1:31 PM, 25 Jan
- “In many cultures the act of naming is regarded as a very powerful thing.” –Professor James Gates 1:33 PM, 25 Jan
- “If science conjures, it’s when we get a clear picture of something we didn’t know and give it a name.” -Professor James Gates 1:35 PM, 25 Jan
- "Math is an extrasensory organ for those who learn to use it that way." -Professor James Gates 1:36 PM, 25 Jan
- “I’m a hidden-dimensional refusenik.” -Professor James Gates 1:38 PM, 25 Jan
- "It’s almost like the equations are trying to tell you a story." -Professor James Gates 1:40 PM, 25 Jan
- "When you do the calculations, it seems there’s an imperative to follow the path." -Professor James Gates 1:41 PM, 25 Jan
- "We’re not trying to find solutions, we’re looking at the structures of the equations…like DNA." -Professor James Gates 1:47 PM, 25 Jan
- “Adinkras have existed in West African cultures for a very long time. They are symbols that have hidden meaning.” -James Gates 1:54 PM, 25 Jan
- An Adinkra: “He who does not know can become knowing by education.”
-Professor James Gates 1:56 PM, 25 Jan
- “A large fraction of the fundamental science done at this point has been inward-looking.” -Professor James Gates 2:01 PM, 25 Jan
- "Science in my experience does not permit us the illusion of certainty." -Professor S. James Gates 2:10 PM, 25 Jan
- "We are forced by the structure of science to recognize human fallibility, human limits." -Professor S. James Gates 2:12 PM, 25 Jan
- "By embracing our limits, by embracing our fallibility we become more knowledgeable." -Professor and physicist S. James Gates 2:14 PM, 25 Jan
Photo of S. James Gates by John Consoli/University of Maryland