(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Universe

“Eventually everything connects”*…

Long-time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with Powers of Ten, a remarkable short film by Charles and Ray Eames, with Philip Morrison, that begins with a couple having a picnic, zooms out by “powers of ten” to the edge of the universe, then zooms in (by those same increments) to a proton.

We’ve looked before at a number of riffs on this meditation on scale: see, e.g., here, here, and here.

Now the BBC has updated the first half of Powers of Ten:

It’s a trip worth taking.

* Charles Eames

###

As we wrestle with relationships, we might light a birthday candle for Sir Francis Bacon– English Renaissance philosopher, lawyer, linguist, composer, mathematician, geometer, musician, poet, painter, astronomer, classicist, philosopher, historian, theologian, architect, father of modern science (The Baconian– aka The Scientific– Method), and patron of modern democracy, whom some allege was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I of England (and others, the actual author of Shakespeare’s plays)… He was in any event born on this date in 1561.

Bacon (whose Essays were, in a fashion, the first “management book” in English) was, in Alexander Pope’s words, “the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any country, ever produced.”  He probably did not actually write the plays attributed to Shakespeare (as a thin, but long, line of enthusiasts, including Mark Twain and Friedrich Nietzsche, believed).  But Bacon did observe, in a discussion of sedition that’s as timely today as ever, that “the remedy is worse than the disease.”

 source

“It is unnatural in a large field to have only one shaft of wheat, and in the infinite Universe only one living world”*…

One indication of advanced alien life could be industrial pollution. Therefore, the presence of gases such as nitrogen dioxide might serve as a technosignature that we could detect on exoplanets. (Courtesy: NASA/Jay Freidlander) [source]

NASA’s top scientists have a provocative message for the scientific community: that they need a plan in place for if — or when — we find evidence of extraterrestrial life…

James Green, the agency’s chief scientist, coauthored a new article, published in the journal Nature, urging researchers to create a framework for reporting evidence of aliens. In it, the authors stressed the importance of clearly communicating any findings of extraterrestrial life, as well as establishing clear expectations for the public for when it occurs and accurately expressing ambiguity in early evidence.

“As life-detection objectives become increasingly prominent in space sciences, it is essential to open a community dialogue about how to convey information in a subject matter that is diverse, complicated and has a high potential to be sensationalized,” read the paper.

Green and his co-authors propose a confidence of life detection (CoLD) scale to help evaluate any evidence that might be discovered. The scale itself contains seven different levels like a staircase. Each level is a benchmark that must be met before we can proceed to the next step. 

For example, level one would be discovering life signatures such as biological molecules. The second level would be ruling out that the sign of life is the result of contamination from Earth. Eventually, the CoLD scale ends with the final step: scientists declaring that they’ve confidently discovered evidence of extraterrestrial life. 

“Having a scale like this will help us understand where we are in terms of the search for life in particular locations, and in terms of the capabilities of missions and technologies that help us in that quest,” Green said in a NASA news release

The paper’s authors stress that the scale is merely a starting point for a larger conversation with scientists and science communicators about the best ways to proceed if and when we discover evidence of alien life. 

It also comes in the context of the upcoming launch of the powerful James Webb telescope, along with the Perseverance Mars rover searching for life on the Red Planet, meaning that such a finding might become a reality sooner rather than later. 

“The search for life beyond Earth requires broad participation from the scientific community and many kinds of observations and experiments,” Mary Voltek, co-author of the study and head of NASA’s Astrobiology Program, said in the release. “Together, we can be stronger in our efforts to look for hints that we are not alone.”

NASA Says We Need a Plan for When We Discover Alien Life,” from @futurism.

As to what we’ll do with that knowledge, a complicating factor: “94% of the universe’s galaxies are permanently beyond our reach” (if the speed of light remains an upper limit on travel).

Metrodorus of Chios

###

As we search far and wide, we might send enduring birthday greetings to Sir Hermann Bondi; he was born on this date in 1919. A mathematician and cosmologist, he is best remembered for developing the steady state model of the universe with Fred Hoyle and Thomas Gold as an alternative to the Big Bang theory. In an attempt to explain the paradox: how can the stars continually recede, yet without disappearing, they audaciously proposed an unproven hypothesis: that the universe has an eternal existence, with no beginning and without an end. Further, they argued, the universe is continuously expanding, maintaining a constant density by continually creating new matter from energy. Their model was rendered obsolete when, in 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected a background microwave radiation from all directions in space, as predicted by the “Big Bang” theory of creation that is now accepted. [See here for more on Penzias’ and Wilson’s discovery.)

Bondi also contributed to the theory of general relativity; was the first to analyze the inertial and gravitational interaction of negative mass; and the first to explicate correctly the nature of gravitational waves.

source

“What I desire of a poem is a clear understanding of motive”*…

I’m not a Hollywood scriptwriter, but if I were, I know what screenplay I’d write. Imagine a violent murder at the epicenter of early Santa Clara Valley—soon to be renamed Silicon Valley in the popular imagination—and an innocent man sent to Death Row at San Quentin. But a famous literary critic emerges as the super sleuth who gets him freed, amid dark evocations of scandal involving corrupt politicians and murky underworld figures. 

You don’t need to imagine it, because it really happened. It’s like the movie Chinatown—in fact, it took place during the same era as that scrumptiously vintage film—but with intriguing literary twists and turns. And, like Chinatown, it possesses all the same overtones of a brutal California origin myth. It would make a riveting film. But in this case the story is true.

On Memorial Day in 1933, a woman’s [Allene Lamson’s] naked body was found, apparently bludgeoned to death, in her Stanford campus home. Within an hour of their arrival on the crime scene, the police had already decided that the husband [David Lamson]—always the prime suspect in a case of this sort—must be the murderer. 

The police never took any other explanation seriously. A student named John Venderlip had seen a suspicious character near the Lamson home the morning of the crime, as well as the night before. But no effort went into investigating this lead. The possibility of accidental death was ruled out, too, although it would later play a decisive role in the case.

This web of speculation and insinuation proved sufficient to get a conviction after a three-week trial that was front page news day after day. The jury only deliberated for eight hours before delivering a guilty verdict. The judge handed out the death penalty—a court-mandated hanging within 90 days. And David Lamson was sent off to San Quentin to await his imminent execution on Death Row. 

And that would seem to be the end of the story. But it wasn’t. And the main reason for this surprising turn into the biggest crime story of its day was a mild-mannered poet and literary critic named Yvor Winters…

In the 1930s, Yvor Winters legitimized literary studies at Stanford—but Hollywood should make a movie about his skills as an amateur detective. A remarkable story from the remarkable Ted Gioia (@tedgioia): “When a Famous Literary Critic Unraveled Silicon Valley’s Most Sensational Murder Case.”

And for further (entertaining, but wholly fictional) accounts of a literary critic’s sleuthing, see Edmund Crispin‘s Gervase Fen novels…

* Yvor Winters

###

As we consider the clues, we might remind our selves that if the history of the universe was condensed into a year, the Milky Way would form on this date (May 15), life on earth would appear on September 21, and the dinosaurs would go extinct on December 30. Modern humans would evolve on December 31 at 11:52 PM and Columbus would discover America at 11:59:58 PM. (For more detail: the Cosmic Calendar)

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 15, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Earth is a small town with many neighborhoods in a very big universe”*…

… full of very large objects. From @nealagarwal, a scroll-able comparison of the size of the objects that surround us in in the universe: “Size of Space.”

(Listen to outer space here.)

For other nifty visualizations, visit his site and check out, e.g., “The Deep Sea.”

* Ron Garan

###

As we internalize insignificance, we might send distantly-observed birthday greetings to Harlow Shapley; he was born on this date in 1885. An astronomer known as “the Modern Copernicus,” he did important work first at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, and then as head of the Harvard College Observatory. He boldly and correctly proclaimed that the globulars outline the Galaxy, and that the Galaxy is far larger than was generally believed and centered thousands of light years away in the direction of Sagittarius: he discovered of the center of our Galaxy, and of our position within it.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 2, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Deep in the fundamental heart of mind and Universe there is a reason”*…

 

darkenergy

 

Why does the Universe exist? There are two questions here. First, why is there a Universe at all? It might have been true that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even space or time. When we think about this possibility, it can seem astonishing that anything exists. Second, why does this Universe exist? Things might have been, in countless ways, different. So why is the Universe as it is?…

Derek Parfit explores the most fundamental questions of all: “Why anything? Why this?”  Part 2 here.

For a 3-D tour of the subject in question– the universe– see here (the source of the image above).

* Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

###

As we explore existence, we might recall that today– and every June 16– is Bloomsday, a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce, during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived: Leopold Bloom goes about Dublin, James Joyce’s immortalization of his first outing with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would eventually become his wife.

The first Bloomsday was observed on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, in 1954, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Brian O’Nolan organized what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They were joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (a dentist who, as Joyce’s cousin, represented the family interest), and AJ Leventhal (a lecturer in French at Trinity College, Dublin).

The crew for the first Bloomsday excursion

source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 16, 2020 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: