Ethan Siegel

717 Flips | 1 Magazine | 187 Followers | @trapitscience | Keep up with Ethan Siegel on Flipboard, a place to see the stories, photos, and updates that matter to you. Flipboard creates a personalized magazine full of everything, from world news to life’s great moments. Download Flipboard for free and search for “Ethan Siegel”

How Does Space Become Transparent? The Orion Nebula Answers

Named “nebulae” because of their structure on the sky, these bright objects are actually nothing more than neutral gas.<p>The reason they appear illuminated at all are because they either reflect/disperse starlight or emit light themselves, as Orion's pink patches show.<p>This emission occurs when …

Comments of the Week #95: From Gravitational Waves to the Multiverse

“What might we learn from lines of research that are off the beaten track? They check accepted ideas, always a Good Thing, and there is the chance …

Ask Ethan: Is The Universe Itself Alive?

You’ve seen the analogies before: how atoms are like solar systems, how the large-scale structure of the Universe are like neurons in a human brain, and how there’s the interesting coincidence that the number of stars in a galaxy, galaxies in the Universe, atoms in a cell, and cells in a living …

Is The Multiverse A Scientific Theory?

Anyone can come up with a theory, which in common parlance, simply means “an idea for how something works.” But in order to be a <i>scientific</i> theory, you have to do a lot more. In particular, any new scientific theory has to look at the current framework of science, including the current leading/best …

How Far Away Is The Universe's Most Distant Galaxy?

The Universe is an awfully big place. When we look out at the night sky, almost everything visible to the naked eye is a part of our own galaxy, like a star, star cluster or nebula, with very few exceptions. Yet some of these exceptions — like the Triangulum Galaxy, above — can be seen through the …

Not So Fast: Why There Likely Isn't A Large Planet Beyond Pluto

Earlier today, the team of Mike Brown — famous for killing Pluto-as-a-planet — and Konstantin Batygin made a spectacular announcement: they’ve found evidence for the existence of a ninth planet out beyond the orbit of Pluto. Unlike other claims of a large world far beyond the orbit of the known …

Are Cosmologists Fooling Themselves About The Big Bang, Dark Matter And More?

Richard Feynman once said of the scientific process, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” The idea that scientists might be fooling themselves (whether out of ignorance or in order to preserve their jobs) is a common accusation made by …

The Closest New Stars To Earth Are In A Place You've Never Looked

Most new stars in our galaxy form in massive regions like the Orion Nebula, some 1500 light-years away.<p>But many more locations exist where star formation is more subtle: in low-mass molecular clouds.<p>Although the northern hemisphere skies are devoid of close ones, there are a slew of dark nebulae …

Have Astronomers Found Alien Megastructures After All? (No, Probably Not)

Late last year, one of the stars that NASA’s Kepler mission was observing made headlines for having a very unusual signal around it. Rather than a standard planet-like signal, it saw something we couldn’t explain: huge quantities of blocked light in varying amounts. Immediately, the speculation ran …

Comments of the Week #94: from nuclear bombs to the changing culture of astronomy [Starts With A Bang]

“Observing quasars is like observing the exhaust fumes of a car from a great distance and then trying to figure out what is going on under the hood.”<i></i> …

Ask Ethan: How Fast Do Gravitational Waves Travel?

One of the most surprising predictions of Einstein’s General Relativity is the existence of not just matter, radiation and other particle-based forms of energy, but the existence of gravitational radiation itself, or fundamental “ripples” in the very fabric of spacetime. This is one of the toughest …

What All The Harassment Stories In Astronomy Really Mean

Geoff Marcy, pioneer in the field of exoplanet studies, was recently forced to resign from UC Berkeley for being found guilty of repeated sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior over his career, allegations which he — for the most part — denies.<p>Tim Slater, professor at University of Wyoming, …

Should You Play Powerball? Science Solves The Mystery

Playing the lottery is the ultimate low-risk, high-reward scenario. If you lose, you’re only out a few dollars: the cost of your bet. But if you win, even though the odds are stacked against you, the payoff is a lifetime of easy living. This evening, Wednesday, January 13th, will mark the richest …

Finance

Comments of the Week #93: from interstellar travel to an unknown monster [Starts With A Bang]

“Observing quasars is like observing the exhaust fumes of a car from a great distance and then trying to figure out what is going on under the hood.”<i></i> …

Ask Ethan: How Can We Know If North Korea Is Testing Nuclear Bombs?

Earlier this week, some very, <i>very</i> suspicious seismic activity occurred in the northeast corner of North Korea, just a few miles interior to the coast. Moreover, a statement from the North Korean government claimed that they detonated a Hydrogen Bomb, which they promised to use against any …

NASA's Fermi Satellite Completes Map Of The Sky; Finds Mysterious, Unknown Monster

For a long time, astronomy was limited to the light we could see. Telescopes were huge improvements over the human eye, capable of gathering much greater amounts of light due to their large apertures. As our technology progressed, we realized that the light our eyes are sensitive to is just a <i>tiny</i> …

Kepler Found Its Longest-Period Planet Ever

The Kepler spacecraft was one of the most brilliant technical and scientific achievements of the 2010s. By launching a telescope into space and pointing it at the same field-of-view of stars for years and years, collecting the light from each one continuously, it became sensitive to tiny, minuscule …

The Closest Star System To Ours Doesn't Have Any Planets (Yet), After All

If you had looked to the skies just 25 years ago, you’d only be able to wonder about planets around other stars. “They must be there,” you’d reason, “since there’s no way our Solar System is unique in all the galaxy.” But where’s the proof? As the case always is in science, it’s in the data you …

Universe

A Distant Galaxy Cluster Reveals The Power Of Einstein's Gravity

A century ago, Einstein put forth a new theory of gravity: General Relativity. The solar eclipse of 1919 finally confirmed that mass gravitationally bent light around it.<p>But only much later was the phenomenon of gravitational lensing confirmed: where a distant galaxy cluster acted as a lens, …

Comments of the Week #92: from the Universe’s birth to ten decades of science [Starts With A Bang]

“The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” -OprahAnd 2016 is here! So …

Ask Ethan: Is Interstellar Travel Possible?

For generations, when we looked out at the distant stars, we could only wonder whether there were planets and the conditions for life-as-we-know-it around them. The past 25 years have brought forth a revolution in planet-finding, with thousands of known, confirmed planets, including many of …

Lost in Space

The Ten Greatest Steps Of The Last Ten Decades

As 2016 dawns, it’s important to recognize that just a century ago, our perception of the Universe was that:<p>the stars, star clusters and nebulae in our Milky Way made up the entire Universe,<br>• all matter was made up of atomic nuclei and electrons,<br>• the only two forces were gravitation and …

Universe

Why Are We Made Of Matter And Not Antimatter?

When we look around at the Universe:<p>at the planets and stars,<br>• at the galaxies and clusters of galaxies,<br>• and at the gas, dust and plasma populating the space between these dense structures,<p>we find the same signatures everywhere. We see atomic absorption and emission lines, we see matter interacting …

Physics

A Spectacular Auroral Show To Ring In The New Year

Celebrating the dawn of a new year usually consists of music, cheers and a spectacular light show. Typically, we make our own on Earth, through the chemical reactions of fireworks, light bulbs and other run-of-the-mill displays. But if you happen to be located at high latitudes on either side of …

Amazing View Of Galaxies That Aren't Colliding, But Look Like They Are

If the Universe were truly infinite, you could look forever in any given direction and eventually run into stars or galaxies.<p>At 46.1 billion light years in any given direction, with hundreds of billions of galaxies inside, most regions of the sky don’t just have one galaxy, but many.<p>Sometimes, …

Comments of the Week #91: From Santa science to lonely galaxies [Starts With A Bang]

“This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery?<br>If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself …

Ask Ethan: How Big Was The Universe When It Was First Born?

You might think of the Universe as infinite, and quite honestly, it might truly <i>be</i> infinite, but we don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Thanks to the Big Bang — the fact that the Universe had a birthday, or that we can only go back a finite amount of time — and the fact that the speed of light is …

The Last Great Discovery Of Our Trip To The Moon: Lunar Volcanic Glass!

In all of human history, only 24 people have flown to the Moon, with 12 walking on the lunar surface. The final two, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, ran into quite a surprise. Schmitt, the lone civilian-astronaut (and only scientist) to travel to the Moon, was often described as the most …

Why String Theory Is Not A Scientific Theory

There are a lot of different ways to define science, but perhaps one that everyone can agree on is that it’s a process by which:<p>knowledge about the natural world or a particular phenomenon is gathered,<br>• a testable hypothesis is put forth concerning a natural, physical explanation for that …

Why Is It So Hard To Find A New Particle?

When we take a look at some of the greatest unsolved problems in theoretical physics today, there’s something many of them have in common.<p>Why is the Universe full of matter, but not antimatter?<br>• What is the nature of dark matter?<br>• What mechanism gives neutrinos their uniquely small (but non-zero) …