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Sacred Geometry

In Mathematics by Brian Koberlein10 Comments

Stretch a string between two points, and you get a straight line. Walk one end of the string around the other and you get a circle. These two shapes, circles and lines, form some of the basic shapes of geometry. Read More

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An Elegant Weapon

In Mathematics by Brian Koberlein6 Comments

Mathematics is the language of science. From arithmetic to group theory, mathematics builds the very foundation of scientific models. We might be inspired by an idea or analogy, but the precision of science requires a mathematical structure. Perhaps the most fundamental thing we’ve learned about the cosmos is that it has a deep connection to mathematics.Read More

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Why It Takes A Big Rocket To Reach Mars

In Physics by Brian Koberlein15 Comments

SpaceX has announced it’s Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), with the goal of sending humans to Mars. While there remains many questions about how such a mission will be achieved, one thing that’s very clear is that the ITS will be the biggest rocket ever constructed. It has to be. Basic physics requires it. Read More

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Young Star In Nearby Galaxy Creates Complex Molecules

In Chemistry by Brian Koberlein1 Comment

In the cold depths of space, interactions between gas and dust can produce a range of complex molecules. Everything from water and alcohol to the basic building blocks of life. While much of this chemistry occurs in cold molecular clouds, molecules can also be produced in the warm regions surrounding a young star, in what is known as a hot molecular core. A few hot molecular cores have been observed in our galaxy, but recently one was discovered in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Somewhat surprisingly, the molecular composition of this extragalactic hot molecular core is strikingly different from the ones seen in our galaxy. Read More

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ALMA Deep Field

In Galaxies by Brian Koberlein1 Comment

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is a particularly dark patch of sky about the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. It was first imaged by the Hubble telescope in 2004, and was found to contain about 10,000 galaxies in its field of view. Other observations of this patch of sky have been made over the years, so that we now have images ranging from infrared to ultraviolet. The galaxies of the HUDF are among the most distant ever observed, stretching back to the earliest age of galaxies. Since Hubble can only detect light within the roughly visible range, its view of the galaxy formation period is limited. But now the ALMA telescope array has captured the HUDF, and it’s given us a new view of these distant galaxies. Read More

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Nobel Surprise

In Physics by Brian Koberlein4 Comments

The 2016 Nobel prize in physics has been awarded, and it wasn’t for gravitational waves. This was a huge surprise, since the direct detection of gravitational waves is one of the all-time biggest breakthroughs in astronomy. It’s not only confirmed a prediction of general relativity, and verified the existence of black holes, it’s also opened up an entirely new field of observational astronomy. Gravitational waves was considered such a shoe in for the Nobel that it’s lack of an award has sent science writers scrambling. So what did win? Topological phase transitions. The official notice awarded David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane, and J. Michael Kosterlitz “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”Read More

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Sense Of Direction

In Cosmology by Brian Koberlein2 Comments

One of the basic assumptions of cosmology is that the Universe is basically the same everywhere. That is, our location in the cosmos isn’t special, and if we happened to be located in another corner of the galaxy we’d see basically the same thing. It’s sometimes known as the Copernican principle, since it was Copernicus who famously proposed the Earth was not the center of the Universe. But given that we haven’t traveled very far into space, how can we really know that assumption is valid? Read More

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Death Spiral

In Gravity by Brian Koberlein4 Comments

Gravitational waves are produced when black holes, stars or planets orbit each other (among other things). As these masses move around each other, they create gravitational disturbances that radiate outward. While we’ve only recently detected gravitational waves directly, we’ve known the exist for decades because of a secondary effect known as inspiraling. As gravitational waves radiate away from two orbiting masses, they carry a bit of energy with them. As a result the two masses lose a bit of energy and move closer to each other. Over time they will spiral ever closer until they collide. Read More