A Chance to Begin Again

2 October 2020

Welcome to the first newsletter. I’m trying a new format, so please let me know what you like or don’t like about it.

Previously On…

It has been about two years since the mailing list was active, and there have been several changes. The website has undergone a major overall. It is now a static site published through Hugo rather than WordPress. The design is much more text-focused, and I’ve removed most of the scripts and trackers.

On a personal level, the most significant change is that I’ve left the Rochester Institute of Technology and am now working for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). One upside of this change is that I have more time to focus on writing. I’m quite happy about this.

I have continued to blog since the mailing list went inactive. If you want to catch up on two years of posts, go to the archive page, where you can find a list of everything I’ve written. Most of the posts are on physics and astronomy, but you’ll find some other topics as well.

Let Me Tell You a Story

Perhaps the biggest change in recent months is that I’m now posting short fiction stories in addition to the usual science posts. I haven’t written fiction in a long time, for various reasons, but with more time to write, I’m trying it again. There are fun stories, such as the Great Banana War of 1976, or a time when a woman finds an infestation of Gnomes in the Garden. There are science fiction stories, such as the discovery of a primordial black hole, or the appearance of strange objects known only as the boxes. There are even a couple of stories about more serious topics.

Science News

This month I wrote several articles about general discoveries in astrophysics. The GREGOR Solar Telescope is online and gives us the most detailed images of the Sun we’ve ever seen. A form of rust known as hematite has been discovered on the lunar surface, and we aren’t sure how it forms there. We’ve found a quasar that has not one, but two supermassive black holes, and a new study on how elements are formed in the cosmos finds that gold is more common than we expect.

Perhaps the biggest news this month is that Venus may harbor life. There are traces of phosphine in its atmosphere, which might be evidence of life. Of course, if there is life on Venus, that might be a bad omen for life on Earth.

Dark matter continues to be a mystery for astronomers. Computer simulations of dark matter find that it forms into haloes around galaxies and galaxy clusters. Our current understanding is that most of the dark matter in the universe is cold. Recent observational evidence finds that it is actually colder than we expect. This could be explained if dark matter interacts with itself an emits gamma rays, but a survey of our galaxy finds no evidence for dark matter gamma rays.

On the more speculative side of things, a couple of researchers suggest that you can never create a paradox if you travel back in time. Another team of researchers wonders if strange forms of life could be hiding in the interiors of stars. Both ideas are fun to speculate about, but we shouldn’t take them too seriously.

As always, you can check out the blog page to see the latest science posts.

One More Thing

This week I finished a draft for a popular science book on the Very Large Array. It will be about a year before anything goes to press. There are also a couple of other projects I’m working on, but that’s a topic for another time.

Until then, I wish you all well.