December 29, 2003 |
The ancients began it, reaching up and out with the warm arms of myth, naming their stars: Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Arcturus, Rastaban, Rigel. Characters in constellations, related, familiar. On a winter night in the mountains, by a still lake, the sky vaults weightless, vast and black. A man stands on the shore, looks up, and feels himself a thing insignificant, flinging small words that absorb into the dark and vanish there. And now we have built a better telescope, lifting the cosmic veil like a curtain from a window in a strange house on a dark night.
August 26, 2003
In the next couple of weeks, do a simple, invigorating thing for yourself and your species. Go outside at night and look up and see Mars. Really see it. There will never be a better time. Mars is now closer to Earth than it has been in 60,000 years. Recorded history is only 6,000 years old. So in a way, what is happening right now is something that has never happened in human memory. You can really see Mars right now. It looks great: beacon-bright, basketball-red. As of tomorrow, it will be "full Mars," the rosy, round face of the planet nice and close.
February 14, 2003
Call it the baby picture of the universe. Or call it God's fingerprint. At first glance, this green oval splashed with red, yellow and blue resembles a cross between a Tiffany lamp shade and a Jackson Pollock painting. Pretty. Pretty cosmically amazing. For this is the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) full-sky map of all the cosmic microwave radiation in the universe. The WMAP project, done in a partnership between Princeton University and NASA, was released Wednesday; it's named in honor of David Wilkinson, an eminent cosmologist and team member who died last year.
July 9, 2001 |
Just when you thought that daily life couldn't possibly get more nerve-racking, scientists at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey announced that the universe is going kaput much faster than previously believed. Their brand-spanking-new theory contradicts the old assumption that the cosmos would slowly degrade into an all-encompassing static state of nothingness, much like the summer TV season. Now they've determined that material in the cosmos is actually speeding up as it explodes into the dark and dismal void.
September 5, 2000 |
Bantam Books will soon reissue its updated - illustrated - edition of Stephen Hawking's wildly popular A Brief History of Time. Beware. As part-time scientific food-taster for my readers, I can report that, having devoured Hawking's original book not once but twice, it leaves no trace. That is because it is entirely incomprehensible. Illustrating the book seems to me akin to tarting up hieroglyphics with Etruscan annotation. Want an invigorating scientific experience? I have a better idea: the new Hayden Planetarium in New York.
January 10, 2000
Faith has a way of resolving theological dilemmas Robert B. Mellert points out an apparent "core difficulty" with the monotheistic view. It is, namely, that one cannot hold to all three of the following: (1) God is omnipotent, (2) God loves us and (3) Evil exists (Commentary, Jan. 2). He suggests that "if such evils do exist and God is truly caring . . . He cannot control the events in the universe. " This "trilemma," as Mellert calls it, has been convincingly refuted by countless Christian theologians through the centuries.
January 18, 1999 |
Astronomers believe they have solved a centuries-old riddle: How old is the universe? But the answer has created a confounding new mystery. About 14 billion years ago, the universe began with the Big Bang, and it has been expanding ever since, according to astronomer Robert Kirshner and physicist Saul Perlmutter, who came to the same birthday estimate independently, using the same method of cosmic measurement. Both scientists also found, to their surprise, that the universe was not just expanding, it was doing so at an ever-accelerating pace, as though driven by some unknown form of energy.
October 11, 1998 |
Thomas B. Troehler, 62, the founder of Audubon Electronics & Cable Systems Inc., one of South Jersey's first cable television companies, died Tuesday at his Berlin Borough home. Born and raised in Audubon, he was a 1953 graduate of Audubon High School. He resided in Haddonfield and Cherry Hill before moving to Berlin. Mr. Troehler developed an interest in electronics while working with radar units in the Air Force. He earned an associate's degree in electronics from Temple University and then founded Audubon Electronics & Cable Systems in 1969 and Cable Systems Inc. in 1971.
August 11, 1997 |
Life is good for Pennsylvania State University physicist Lee Smolin. He's thought of a way to explain why the laws of nature are what they are - why electricity, gravity and the other forces are set just right to organize the universe into planets, stars and galaxies, as opposed to, say, a vast swarm of dust grains or inert rocks. He also has a theory to explain the origin of life, but he says he wants to do some more checking before he goes public with it. "I have an optimistic sense," says Smolin, 42, from one of his New York haunts, a Brazilian cafe in SoHo, near his part-time home in Brooklyn.
December 22, 1996
Like any vital field of human endeavor, science can be plagued by polemics and controversy, egos, envies and ethical quandaries. How lucky we were, then, to have Carl Sagan around for 62 years to remind us that science is also rife with joy, wit, wonder and possibility. What Mr. Sagan, who died Friday in Seattle, managed to pack into his six decades was itself a marvel worthy of scientific study. Before a rare disease shut down his revving brain, he wrote more than 20 books, won the Pulitzer Prize, composed the article on "Life" in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, designed the plaques that flew into interstellar space with the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes, worked on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project, did significant research in planetary astronomy, taught, married three times and fathered five children.