One Special Universe: Take It or Leave It

If you think this universe is odd, to what would you compare it?  Adrian Cho asked this and other basic questions in a whimsical review of cosmology since WMAP in Science.1  Closer analysis of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as revealed in detail by WMAP (03/06/2003, 05/02/2003, 09/20/2004, 03/20/2006), has uncovered features so surprising (e.g., […]

Astronomy Columnist Tackles Naturalism vs. Intelligence

Bob Berman is an unusual columnist for a science magazine.  He’s independent-thinking, unafraid to tackle big questions and criticize powerful institutions, but all the while able to keep a sense of humor.  In his monthly column “Bob Berman’s Strange Universe” in the November issue of Astronomy (p. 10), he took a moment from munching on […]

Dark Matter Sheds Light on Invisible Stars: Come Again?

Can one unknown shed light on another unknown?  That’s what some UK astronomers seem to be saying.  Before describing their model, consider this conundrum with which they ended a story in the BBC News: “We don’t know what the dark matter is, we don’t know what the first stars are.  If we bring these two […]

Is the Universe Hole-y?

Cosmologists are trying to avoid a void.  Since astronomers at U of Minnesota announced a gaping hole in a distant part of the universe, representing a region of space devoid of matter a billion light-years across, others are scrambling to discern what it means.  The issue was discussed on EurekAlert, BBC News, Science Now, and […]

“We have no idea why these galaxies grew so large so soon”

Five full-sized galaxies have been detected at the edge of the visible universe, reported Science Now.  This continues a trend over the last few years where astronomers have been detecting old objects at young ages (e.g., 07/25/2007, 09/24/2006, 08/18/2006, 03/31/2006).   “The galaxies, which are forming stars very rapidly, are big for their age, meaning […]

Stars Found Almost as Old as Universe

A new record was set by a Caltech team using the Keck telescopes on Hawaii: they detected a galaxy nearly as old as the universe.  The consensus age for the universe is 13.6 billion years.  The light from this galaxy, they claim, is over 13 billion years old – “a mere 500 million years after […]

Cosmologists in Search of Dark Ghosts

Dark matter and dark energy: do they exist?  Cosmologists and physicists are spending large amounts of money building huge and expensive detectors to find them, but so far have found nothing.  This raises profound questions about the limits of science, the interaction of observation with theory, the presuppositions behind scientific models, and the sociology of […]

Nature Celebrates Bizarre “Many-Worlds” Cosmology

The cover of Nature this week (July 7) looks like a comic book.  And well it might: it celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the weirdest beliefs ever submitted by a physicist: Hugh Everett’s “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics.  The bottom line is that every time you observe a coin toss or any other […]

Cosmic Star Formation: When Elegant Theories Are Wrong

An astronomer wrote about “cosmic train wrecks” in Science recently.1  Paolo Coppi (Yale) was speaking about galactic mergers, but he could have just as well been talking about current cosmological models.  Things once thought to be understood are coming in for new scrutiny, now that more powerful telescopes can peer deeper into the veiled hearts […]

Think Fast: News Briefs

Of the many news items that cross the CEH desk, many are noteworthy but go unreported due to lack of time.  Here are a few that deserve honorable mention lest they pass into oblivion. Cosmology: Dark future – Several sources like Science Now and commented on the dark future of the universe if cosmic acceleration […]

Hubble Explodes Star-Formation Assumption in Globular Clusters

The Hubble Telescope found three episodes of star formation in a globular cluster.  While this announcement might make a layman yawn, what’s interesting are the expressions of grief and anguish coming from astronomers about what this does to their theories.  For many years, astronomers had prided themselves on their understanding of globular clusters.  These massive, […]

Cosmology: Crisis or Confidence?

What is it with cosmology these days?  On the one hand, astronomers seem more confident than ever.  They speak of this as the era of “precision cosmology,” when the only task remaining seems to be refining the decimal points; e.g., the first refinements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) won John Mather and George Smoot […]

Deconstructing Darwinese:  Delighting in Ignorance

When is ignorance a good thing?  When is confidence in one’s answers a bad thing?  One science writer expressed his desire for mystery over explanation – as long as the mysterious allowed room for lucky breaks without design.     Science writer Ben Shaberman got to share his views on the last page of the […]

Tangled String: Cosmology on the Brink

The February cover of Astronomy Magazine poses an intriguing question: “What if string theory is wrong?”  Maybe you are unfamiliar with string theory.  Writer Sten Odenwald is not talking about violins or balls of string, but about the current leading theory of fundamental physics.  “Superstring theory,” Odenwald explains, “is based on three ideas that remain […]

No Evolutionary Tree for Galaxies

Edwin Hubble was famous for many important discoveries, including the confirmation of external galaxies and the expansion of the universe (no, he did not build the Hubble Space Telescope; he died in 1953).  One of his theories, though, a kind of evolutionary story of galaxies, has not fared so well.  Sidney van den Bergh discussed […]
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