May 31, 2020

Review: Magnificent Principia by Colin Pask

On sale now!

Thank Newton for orbital mechanics. This week, we’ll take a look at the masterpiece that started all with Magnificent Principia by Colin Pask out from Prometheus Books. Sir Isaac published his Philosphiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica on July 5th, 1687. And although every high school physics student is (or hopefully, should be) familiar with the three laws of motion that it advanced, few have ever actually read the original work. [Read more...]

16.03.11: The LIGO/Virgo Collaboration Passes “The Envelope.”

Amidst a week of killer-moons and earthquake paranoia, a real science story with potentially big implications was shaping up in Arcadia, California.  On March 14th, the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) and European-based Virgo scientists gathered to “pass the envelop” (their spelling!) On a hoped-for first detection of a gravitational wave.

[Read more...]

07.10.09: The Ig Nobels Rock Cambridge!

Forget the Nobel prizes with their stuffed shirts and ivory tower scientists, the Ig Nobels are where the real science gets done! Unveiled to a full house at Cambridge, Massachusetts this past weekend, these sort of “anti-Nobels” feature down and dirty, no-holds barred science in the rough. Billed as “Science that makes you laugh, then makes you think”, the Ig Nobels are sponsored by the Center for Improbable Research. This years’ fare didn’t feature any astronomical themes, but were fascinating as usual. Some highlights;

Veterinary Medicine:Exploring Stock Manager’s Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production.” by Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University. Apparently, if Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was named “Sprinkles”, Chicago would have fared better.

Peace Prize: “Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Studier, and does their Fracture Threshold suffice to break the Human Skull?” Stephan A. Bolliger, et al. In the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Possibly, the best option might be “C.”, to successfully duck!

Chemistry Prize: “Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila.” Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga, and Victor M. Castano of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. We here at Astroguyz would have been proud to test the psychosomatic effects of said diamonds…there’s just something about scientists and alcohol that screams Ig Nobel!

Honorable Mention: Donald Unger, who cracked the knuckles in his left hand every day for sixty years to study its effect on inducing arthritis… Katherine Whitcome, for analyzing the center of gravity of pregnant women… and Ireland’s police service for writing fifty driving tickets to the nation’s worst driver, thereby winning the Ig Nobel for Literature…

So don’t forget, you’ve now got 365 days to nominate your favorite wacky PhD thesis for 2010…hooray for mad science!


Review: Blast! A Film by Paul Devlin.

Blast! Can be seen as a documentary that was 13.7 billion years in the making. Directed by Paul Devlin, Blast! follows the exploits of a group of astrophysicists as they break new ground with a unique balloon borne telescope. BLAST stands for Balloon-Borne, Large Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope. As reported earlier this week in our post “Antarctic Astronomy”, “Sub-millimeter” is the name loosely given to the wavelengths roughly between microwave and infra-red. [Read more...]

Review: The Atom & the Apple by Sébastien Balibar.

Science is frequently taught as a set of axioms and tables free of mystery. The course has been charted, everything worth knowing has been known. But shouldn’t we teach the unknown as well? How do we know what we know? Recently, an enlightening book entitled The Atom & the Apple published by Princeton Press arrived on our doorstep. Like Sagan and Clarke, its author once again injects the wonder back in science.

[Read more...]

November 2008: News & Notes.

STS-125 Update: The final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope is still officially on hold status, although an unofficial date of February 12th, 2009 is under current review. On October 25th, NASA engineers announced the reactivation of the main camera out of safe mode, which is certainly encouraging. The shuttle Endeavour, STS-126 headed for the International Space Station, now moves into the forward launch slot. Endeavour, formerly a backup to Atlantis, is slated to launch on November 14th.  

[Read more...]