interested in keeping up with astrophysics discoveries?

this is the place
(apologies to the LDS)

note:  for Nature and Science published articles,
original articles can be accessed if you are using an NCSSM (or university) IP address;
links provided to these articles are only abstracts

(feedback, question, submission suggestions are welcome at

solar system

stellar physics


galaxies & cosmology

particle & quantum


cultural literacy



cultural literacy


late August 2013

did life of Earth
come from Mars?


so, which would you
rather do:

capture an asteroid

go back to the moon

(New York Times)

two moons passing
in the night

Curiosity watches from the
Martian surface as
Phobos passes Deimos

the last planetary first

2772 days down,
690 more until the arrival
New Horizons

huge lava fountains
gushing on Jupiter moon Io

(New Scientist)

comet ISON will apparently NOT be the
"comet of the century"

another  in a long line of comet mis-advertisements
by astronomers

supergiant missing,
supernova mystery solved

(Scientific American)

An observational correlation between
stellar brightness
variations and
surface gravity


The Crab that Roared
a new surprise for
an old explosion

brown dwarfs:
from zeroes to heroes

(New Scientist)

"zombie vortices"
key step in
star formation?

(UC Berkeley)

an iron planet with a
4-hour 'year'

(New Scientist)

the Kepler rundown:

136 confirmed planets &
 3,548 unconfirmed, potential planets.
Of those unconfirmed planets,
272 are believed to be in the
so-called "habitable zone," warm enough for liquid water and life


4 reasons Physics says
you shouldn't exist


Hubble sees 'true shapes'
of galaxies
11 BY ago

the galaxies appear
to be split between
blue star-forming galaxies
with a complex structure
(e.g., discs, bulges, and
messy clumps)
and massive red galaxies that are no longer
forming stars

galaxies took on present shapes and colors
near dawn of time

(New Scientist)

CERN comedy webcast
[e.g., heard about the Higgs boson that goes to church?
...can't have mass without him]

(live, Aug 30, 7:30 pm)
caution: contains adult

wait, what?

one year out from the
Higgs discovery
has particle physics
come to a standstill?


the Higgs field explained
(in 3 minutes, 20 seconds)

another re-hash of the

all of the articles
referred to within
have appeared
on this page previously

Quantum Computing
the D-wave machine

(Scientific American)

The Proof in the
Quantum Pudding

how do you know if
a quantum computer
is doing what it claims?

Quantum Zeno effect
seen in diamond


In the Hunt for Dark Matter,
Promises to Keep?


 CERN: help us analyze
antimatter's behavior

CERN technology,
now available
for your PC:

Particle detectors for the classroom
3600 Euro, each, alas

Discovering the Expected
in particle physics

Quantum Mechanics
Made Easy

chapter 11 of
Sean Carroll's
From Eternity to Here

the latest embarrassment:
ACT scores just released:

NC has lowest composite score of any state in the country

(NC was dead last in reading, science, and English; we beat TN, LA, and KY in math)

from the ACT report on NC
(see pages 4-5):

 "17% of 2013 North Carolina
high school graduates
who took the ACT test in 2013
(i.e., ALL NC h. s. graduates,
since the test was required)

have the reading, math, English and science skills needed to succeed in college or a career."
And the ACT's criteria for 'success'?
a 75% chance of getting a C or higher in an introductory college course...
49% of NC grads met
NONE of the
4 subject benchmarks for 'success'.

Read more here:
I guess you get what
you pay

The Smartest Kids in the World,
and how they got that way
(spoiler alert: they're not ours)
(Diane Rehm show, NPR,
1-hour audio, 8/1913)

and why the US students continue
to fall further behind those in
Finland, South Korea, Poland, ...
a shorter version
(The World, 7-minute audio, 8/21/13)
book excerpt also included

Why a Master's Degree matters
for NC Teachers

(except to NC Republicans)

how teachers, students, and universities will suffer from the
loss of the "master's bump"

The Tuition is Too Damn High, Part II:
Why College is Still Worth It
(Washington Post)

The Right Reasons to
Pick a College


Wrong Answer:
The Case Against Algebra II

(Harper's, September 2013)
a 9-page diatribe against high school Algebra II requirements
and abstract reasoning
in general

 The Two Education Cultures
(Stanley Fish)
evidence-based (aka 'testing') vs.
'teaching is an art'

The Common Core & the Common Good
(New York Times)

Greeting the new school year
with anxiety rather than joy

Shifts in NC education law
leave teacher pay stranded

(Charlotte Observer)

Reality bites:
New education laws
prompt public
school teacher to leave NC

(The Independent)

the 'top 15 lesson plans' for
back to school

and not one is on science?!? 
I guess we now know
what the priorities are(n't)

Georgia Tech to offer
 on-line Master's in CompSci
for $6.6K vs $45K for same degree
in person

Udacity/San Jose St. suspend on-line math MOOCs
due to poor student performance

a very bad time to be a voting
college student

N.C. elections boards move to
curtail college student voting

(The State, Columbia, SC)

App State students will suffer
under voting changes


College Students Will
Have to Work
Harder to Vote in N.C.

(Raleigh News & Observer)

North Carolina: a Leader in Modern Vote Suppression

The Massacre of ...  N.C. ....
"North Carolina is channeling
South Carolina and Alabama..."
(oh well, at least he didn't say

Lapdog media learn
nothing, beat war drums

"Before attacking Syria,
let's know the truth."

9 Questions about Syria
you were afraid to ask

(Washington Post)

race and America

Joseph Stieglitz:
(NP Economics, 2001)
The Great Divide:
race and economics

Bobby JIndal:
The end of race

John Fountain:
"How do you get over 250 years of slavery?"
 (Chicago Sun Times)
and if you don't think racism is alive and flourishing in America,
read the comments below the article

Kathleen Parker:
Obama's race remarks exacerbate tensions

Colin Powell:
Trayvon Martin verdict questionable

US spying/lying, continued

the latest (8/30/13)
Snowden leak:
the secret U.S. 'Black budget'
revealed:  $53 billion annually
(Washington Post)

the secret budget
[for our 16(!) different spy agencies]
 in 11 charts

War on leaks  =   War on journalists?
(NY Times)
"What are we thinking?"

the latest lie exposed:
75% of email content was collected
by the NSA

(Wall Street Journal)
forget that initial report about
it only being 'metadata'

the NSA is losing the benefit
of the doubt

(Washington Post)
especially the 'scary' Footnote 14

NSA gathered thousands of Americans' e-mails before court struck down program
(Washington Post)

UK/US intimidation continued:

Bradley Manning's conviction sends
a chilling message

hard drives smashed.
journalists detained at airports.
this is democracy?

(The Guardian)

U.K. defends destruction of data

(Washington Post)
UK destroyed hard drives of Guardian
to stop Snowden story
(Washington Post)

So the innocent have nothing to fear? Ask David Miranda.
(The Guardian)

The price Gina Gray paid for whistlblowing
(Washington Post)

the Laura Pointras story
(NY Times)
harassing people who tell the truth
(even if they've won a Peabody & McArthur)

House panel withheld NSA
surveillance documents from Congress
(Washington Post)

NSA privacy breaches?
U. S. senator says
" ... it's just the tip of the iceberg ..."
(The Guardian)

how to keep the NSA out
of your computer

(Mother Jones)

John Grisham: Guantanamo Bay
(NY Times)
how we create new terrorists,
or, and you wonder why 'they' hate us?

and how to change
commentary on
Bradley Manning's Letter to
President Obama

(link to the actual letter contained within)

remarkable suggestions from a US ambassador:
1) match our rhetoric to actual policy
2) stop our hypocritical preaching
to the rest of the world
3) be consistent in our policies

What NC's Pat McCrory could learn from
California's Jerry Brown

cultural literacy


What is economics good for?

(New York Times)
a reminder that it's a craft
and not a science

We're Still Hostages to the Big Banks
(New York Times)

How Technology is Wrecking the Middle Class
(New York Times)

Hard Times, well for some of us
(New York Times)
the rich get richer, by a lot

Return of the Oppressed
reverse the USA's present and growing
economic inequality.... or else


Remote Control
Anytime, Anywhere
Protecting the Empire
(NY Times)
The power of ESPN over colleges

NFL Intimidates ESPN
(NY Times)
into dropping out of series
on player concussions
with PBS' Frontline


gen X: the weakest (worst?!?) generation?
(the Washington Post used 'worst'
in the title on its home page)

ingenious methods of
animal navigation
dung beetles use
the Milky Way & the moon;
loggerhead turtles & robins
use Earth's magnetic field;
bees use sky polarization;
and more

Zealot  or  not Zealot
listen to KCRW show with Aslan 8/16/13

segregation, diversity, & clustering
the demographic map of America
every person plotted

next out of the printer: living tissue

early August 2013

NASA image shows
1400 known asteroids
potentially hazardous
to life on Earth

1 year of Curiosity on Mars
in 2 minutes

celebrating the 1-year anniversary
of Curiosity on Mars
(but, sadly, in black-and-white)

a more interactive version
ofthe first year
of Curiosity on Mars

(and this one's in color)

we're in the midst of the
weakest solar cycle
in 100 years

how to find the
5 visible planets during August
although mostly in pre-dawn hours

runaway greenhouse effect
apparently possible on Earth

Stars, Gold, Dung Beetles, and Us
(NY Times)
  more philosophical musings on
our place in the universe

Hubble:  kilo-nova burst provides
first sound evidence that

short-duration GRBs are produced by
collisions of neutron stars


Spitzer eclipsing triple-star system
surrounded by dust rings

sadly, Kepler's planet-hunting
days are over

(NY Times, 8/15/13)

the official NASA version
telescope to look
for another purpose
in life

first exoplanet transit
seen in x-rays

the way we were:
Subaru releases 3-D map of the universe's
galaxy distribution
9 BY ago

Hubble identifies source of
the Magellanic stream

most of the gas comes from the SMC,
not the LMC

Spitzer:  monster galaxies lose
their appetite as they age
galactic cannibalism reached
a peak 5 BY ago

evidence of Milky Way's supermassive
black hole's past feeding frenzy?

long-awaited discovery of CMB
may be able to confirm inflation and
provide clues to the neutrino mass

idiotic Science News article on
multiverses prompts
sane rebuttal:

'Belief in multiverses requires
exceptional vision. 
So does telepathy.'

(Scientific American)

was all this prompted by a
Nobel Prize winner's writing

help CERN: determine antimatter
properties from the comfort of your home

Dark Energy the result
of the HIggs Boson?

(Physical Review Letters, 08/09/13)
New Scientist  (08/14/13)

are IceCube's energetic  neutrinos
the sign of
dark matter decay?

Black Hole Mystery Wrapped in a Firewall Paradox
(NY Times)
more about the continuing
controversy over
are you crushed or incinerated?

a new particle accelerator
to study the Higgs?

a coordinated magazine attack
on reality?
(but you have to buy/subscribe
to read the entire articles)

Quantum Weirdness:
the Battle for Reality

Reality, Relativity, Causality
or Free Will?
" least one of them is
an illusion... b
ut which?"
(New Scientist,
August 3, 2013)

Quantum Physics:
What is Real?

Fields or Particles...
or something else?

(Scientific American,
August 2013)

Quantum Weirdness?
It's All in Your Mind

(Scientific American,
  June 2013)

first-ever lower bound on
the lifetime of the photon

Where Low Pay for Teachers
Will Lead

(Raleigh News & Observer 8/13/13)

The Difference One Teacher Made
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/14/13)

A Teacher's Worth
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/12/13)

Internet connectivity,
North Carolina:
dead last in the nation

(Raleigh News & Observer 8/4/13)


Attracting Top-notch Teaches to
North Carolina:
1) Re-open the Doors to Teaching Talent
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/9/13)
as a start, let's make teaching
a better-paying job
than managing a Burger King
and make it so teachers' kids
don't have to go Medicaid

(Asheville Citizen-Times)

2) Hire Quality, Compensate Accordingly
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/9/13) 

What NC Lawmakers Treasure
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/6/13)
it isn't students and education

The Truth about Tax Reform
and Teachers

(Raleigh News & Observer 8/3/13)

"the legislature's ...
all-out assault
on public education..."
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/2/13)
the Durham County perspective

Attacking Teachers, Robbing Students
(Raleigh News & Observer 7/31/13)

Benefits Today's Kids Don't Have
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/13/13)

the North Carolina legislative disaster
continues to attract national attention

North Carolina law takes war
on voting rights to a new low
(Washington Post)
" ... an abomination ... "

NC won't be able laugh off
the loss of its young people

North Carolina: the end of a middle way

Read more here:
The Decline of North Carolina

North Carolina: First in Voter Suppression

lying  about spying

audits show that NSA often broke its
own privacy rules (8/16/13)
(gee, now there's a surprise!)
NY Times story
Washington Post story

secret government order forces
2 secure email providers
to shut down permanently in the US...
Washington Post story1 & story2, 8/9/13)
New York Times story, 8/9/13)

Edward Snowden, patriot
(Washington Post)
Edward Snowden is a patriot

Congress Denied Access
to NSA  Info

(The Guardian, London)

NSA's XKeyScore is collecting
all social-media content &
internet browsing history
of US residents

(The Guardian, London)
including details of how they do it...


The Great Divide

(New York Times)
the best series of articles
on US economic equality,
the present and coming
disaster it's causing,
and what we should be doing
about it

40 Maps that Explain the World

(Washington Post)

did lactase tolerance result in the dominance of European civilization


Science is Not Your Enemy
(New Republic)
Steven Pinker on
science and the humanities

The Geography of Happiness
based on geotagged twitterers
(I mean 'twits')...
gee, now there's an unbiased source

freedom and otherwise

US ranked 10th in press freedom
and 15th in democracy...
(well, at least we're ahead of Estonia)
rankings here  and  here
maps, pie charts, and info here

The Al-Qaeda Menace the US
Helped to Create

other science

what happens when you a drop a ball
through a hole straight through the center of the earth?

(and you should know if you
had physics at S&M)
(a very slow news day at NPR?)

Freeman Dyson on
Robert Openheiner

and his science
(NY Review of Books)

a scientific explanation for
near-death experiences?:
Clues from the Brains of Dying Rats
another version
(Washington Post)

light stopped (inside a crystal)
for record-breaking one minute

The Race to Save the Orange

(NY Times)
is the
orange on the verge of disappearing?,
will we allow genetic modification save it?
or, will the threat of no oranges
save GMOs?

Read more here:

education in general

Education Life issue

(NY Times)
ACT goes digital,
SAT gets overhauled (again),
adventures in college application reading,
what and where to study
(if money is your goal),
how to talk to your teachers,
fantasy SAT questions,
and more


Hard Hurdles for Student Voters in NC
(Raleigh News & Observer 8/13/13)
"... no state makes it harder for
students to vote."

late July 2013

360 simultaneous videos show
A Year of Sky on Earth
from San Francisco

a solution to the
faint-young-sun paradox?

Hubble discovers
14th Neptune moon
12 miles across

3rd-ever photo of Earth
from the outer solar system

origin of all the universe's gold
from  colliding neutron stars
in gamma-ray bursts?

A Universe Full of Planets
(NY Times)
 a reminder that we're
in the midst of a rare
scientific revolution

Hunting Aliens
(Washington Post)
by looking for transits of
alien spacecraft
as they pass over
their planet's surface!

Hubble finds
multiple generations of stars
within a single globular cluster

giant black hole maybe escapee from another galaxy

youtube videos of lectures at the
UC-SantaCruz Cosmology summer school

your tax dollars at work:
NASA working on
space travel

(NY Times)
yeah, dream on

Teachers Take Another Hit In
State Budget

(News & Observer)

NC legislature continues
to trash teachers

(News & Observer)
can it get any worse?

the disaster (NC Legislature)
is finally over

when even Europe takes notice,
you know it's bad

NC voting bill slammed
(The Guardian, London)

Scary Ending
(News & Observer)
"Tax breaks for the wealthy,
a slap for teachers, and new voting limits..."


Economic Mobility
in America
(and why growing up in
the South is a bad idea)

other science

MIT biologists implant false memory
into brain
(of mice)

sound waves can levitate matter

solar system

stellar physics


galaxies & cosmology

particle & quantum

cultural literacty

early July 2013

IBEX gives spectacular first view
of solar system's tail

how to see Venus in the daytime on July 10

unusual simultaneous double coronal burst
movie  from early July

re-visiting the formation of the Moon:
a nuclear explosion in Earth's interior?
(New Scientist)

re-visiting the Tunguska event
what -- if anything -- did
collide with Earth in 1908?

(New Scientist)

A Unified View of Neutron Stars
research article here

A Beautiful End to a
Star's Life
how sun-like stars die

Barns are Painted Red Because
of the Physics of Dying Stars

can you figure out why before you read this?
(Smithsonian Magazine)

Hubble finds a true blue

small planets can survive in
crowded clusters

double death knell:
months after Kepler dies,
Corot follows suit

energetic radio bursts

another story here

a possible explanation:
massive star collapse to black hole?

distant galaxy caught feeding

the strength of the known forces
(Matt Strassler)

an oldie but goodie:
How the Higgs Field Works
(with math)

(Matt Strassler)

is missing half-neutrino
a goldstone boson in disguise?

(New Scientist)

Lisa Randall's Guide to the Galaxy
and her new ideas on
 what dark matter might be

(Smithsonian Magazine)

education, economics, et al.

The Decline of North Carolina
(NY Times)
even other people are
noticing the
disaster in Raleigh

A Wasted Crisis?
Why Democrats Did So Little to
Reign in Wall Street

(New Republic)
another reminder that we live
in an oligarchy masquerading
as a democracy

death of a visionary

an oldie:
Apple America and the
USA's Squeezed Middle Class

(NY Times)

“...The U.S. has stopped
producing people

with the skills we need..."

nsa spying

How Microsoft and Skype gave
NSA access to its users'
encrypted communications

(The Guardian)

We Can Handle the Truth
(Washington Post)

may-june 2013  astro/culture updates

march-april 2013   astro/culture updates