interested in keeping up with astrophysics discoveries?

(is anybody actually reading this?)

this is the place

note:  for Nature and Science published articles,
you can access the original articles if you are using an NCSSM IP address;
c)whyopyright issues prevent reading without a subscription;
that's why no links are provided for these articles

solar system

stellar physics


galaxies & cosmology

particle & quantum physics

cultural literacy

late June 2013

Voyager 1 crosses the

heliosheath depletion region
the what?

wallow in supermoon silliness

young star reveals what sun's early life was like:
feisty and burst-ish

(American Astronomical
Society, June meeting)

Fast winds on Venus are
getting faster

NASA unveils billion-pixel Curiosity image of Mars

the Cat's Paw Nebula:
a mini-starburst region in our galaxy?
(American Astronomical
Society, June meeting)

an unexpected
new type of variable star

(American Astronomical
Society, June meeting)

supercomputer simulation of
matter in-falling
onto black holes matches observed x-ray spectra

Hubble maps outburst ejecta in double-star system

THREE! planets in the habitable zone around triple star system's faintest star, Gl667C
research article here

perhaps planets aren't
cannibalized by their stars,
after all?

technical article here

How to Toast a Planet
close-in "gas giant" planets may be electrically heated by an internal current connected to the central star's solar wind

(American Astronomical
Society, June meeting)

Hubble finds evidence for exoplanet-in-the-making
(American Astronomical
Society, June meeting)

a new method for detecting distant exoplanets:
by their radio-emitting auroras

bored?  use Lone Signal to send a free radio message to nearby aliens

New Strategy Could Resolve Dark-Matter Mystery

high-resolution uv images of the nearest galaxies reveal massive star locations
(with musical narration)
(American Astronomical
Society, June meeting)

colliding galaxy pair takes flight
additional subtext here
research article here

more about the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics

(see also Quantum Weirdness link in
late May block


general science

what Archimedes did (and did not) invent
(NY Times)


NC Tax Reform Will Have Major
Implications for Next Generation

(or, has anyone been paying attention to
the crazy ideas about to be implemented by loony NC Legislators?)


NCSSM alum (c/o of '97) among 8 in
most recent NASA astronaut class
(one of my advisees!)

Schooling Ourselves in Educational Inequality
(NY Times)
 why the U.S. is no longer among the world's best in high-school & college graduation rates

Our Schools, Cut Off from the Web
(NY Times)

Faulty Logic in the Math Wars
(NY Times)
should we teach the best algorithms or
a route to personal understanding?

or a more scholarly version of the same:
The Banality of Deeper Learning

the first report on the effectiveness of US Teacher Preparation Programs 
(608 institutional programs rated)

        from the executive summary:

  "Once the world leader in educational attainment,
        the United States has slipped well into the
middle of the pack.

                Countries that were considered little more than educational backwaters just a few years ago have
leapt to the forefront of student achievement....

    There’s no shortage of factors for America’s educational decline" one of which is "the colleges and universities producing America’s traditionally prepared teachers....
     they have become an industry of mediocrity,
churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge
inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity."


why you shouldn't be fooled by those claiming
"but it's only metadata"

and how metadata can find out
your medical conditions,
your sexual partners,
whether you own a gun,
or virtually anything else

what actually can be found from
someone's real metadata

is the Internet worth it?
(Washington Post)



early June 2013

watch (live!) an asteroid come 3x closer than the moon today
(Friday, June 7)

2 new ESA images show
flood plains on Mars

Kepler's exoplanets bigger than originally thought
(earth-sized exoplanets may be neptune-sized)

the unexpected (and surprising)

visit of asteroid QE2

terrestrial (i.e., rocky) planet
evolution dichotomy:
how quickly a rocky planet's core solidifies determines whether the planet keep its water or not....
thus explaining the difference between Venus & Earth...
Nature 497

going to Mars?

magnetar shows first
transfer of angular momentum from outer to inner crust
results in sudden spin-down of the neutron star

Nature 497

Faint Portraits of
First Galaxies Shed Light on

Cosmic Dawn

join spacewarps:
help astronomers find
galactic gravitational lenses

Is the Universe unnatural?

black holes extra-abundant in first generations of stars?

Roll over Einstein:  Weinstein's new "theory of everything"


"Amazing New Theory That Solves Every Puzzling
Conundrum in Theoretical Physics
Only He Hasn’t Written An Actual Paper Yet
So Physicists Can’t Check All Those Hard Mathematical Details But Trust Us,
It’s Gonna Be Awesome!"

talk given at Oxford in late May, but no first-hand reports yet

New Scientist weighs in

deja vu:
so whatever happened to Garrett Lisi and
his 2007 "theory of everything"?


Lawmakers' Disastrous Path to an Inferior NC Education

other science

Russians find woolly mammoth carcass with liquid blood
(Washington Post)

woolly mammoths:
  flowing blood and live cells?
(Scientific American)

do cosmic rays trigger lighting strikes?

current events


sequestration effects on astronomy

Fixing the digital economy
(New York Times)


Edward Snowden: hero or traitor?
(The New Yorker)

sign the White House Petition to
pardon Edward Snowden

Obama's letter to George W. Bush:
"I am sorry for ...."
(ABC News)

Osama Bin Laden's last and greatest triumph
(The Guardian)

even scarier: what we don't know about US surveillance of us
(Atlantic Monthly)

On Whistleblowers
(what we owe to Glenn Greenwald and
other whistleblowers)
(The Guardian)

late May 2013

watch the 5/24/13 penumbral eclipse of the moon here....
it starts at 11:37 pm EDT

watch this month's (until June 1) close encounter of the three planets:
Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter
in the post-twilight sky

last time until 2026

mystery of moon's long-ago intense magnetic field deepens

Moon has clues to the Grand Tack
the inward -- then outward -- migration of Jupiter

video of May 10, 2013 annular eclipse

this summer's blockbuster:
cloud/star to be shredded by Milky Way's SM black hole

starting in June?

Magnetar found near Milky Way's Supermassive Black Hole
  may provide test of General Relativity

Is fiery interstellar ribbon in Orion real?

have we finally figured out the spectra of interstellar polyaromatic hydrocarbons?
(think "muffler exhaust")

Kepler malfunction may halt search for earth-like planets

how we might fix it

Science magazine devotes 25 pages of its May 3 issue  to the current status of exoplanets
Kepler's discovery of a 5-planet system with
2 of its planets in the habitability zone

the entire issue is available electronically on the NCSSM campus (i.e., with an NCSSM IP address):
access via the e-journal link

the hard copy of the magazine is in the  NCSSM library

a new method for finding exoplanets

Hubble finds rocky debris orbiting
dead stars

the remnants of a planetary systems vaporized during the red-giant phase?

site of ancient galaxy crash site found

discovery of distant, tiny, tadpole galaxies may show what Milky Way was like at birth

black-hole-powered jets plow into galaxy

Is the Universe Unnatural?

Antarctica's IceCube Observatory sees
unexplained high-energy neutrinos

Pear-shaped Ra-226 nucleus:
hints at why the universe has a

Quantum Weirdness:
is it all in your mind?

June 2013 Scientific American,
pp. 46 - 51

Cracks in the Periodic Table
discovery of element 117 fills a row... but is the table
actually useful?

June 2013 Scientific American,
pp. 68 - 73

On My Way to Being a Scientist
one route to becoming a research scientist:
Nature, May 13

via the  e-journal link

You get what you pay for
North Carolina continues to plummet in education spending per student and teacher salaries:
NC teacher salaries are now lower than those in all states except Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, & Oklahoma (pages 19-20)...
and guess the state where salaries have dropped the most since 2001?  yep, it's  NC!

As to educational spending per student, we're 45th
(2 places higher)!  (page 55)

no need to  wonder why we NC is at the bottom of the heap
in average SAT

(but the GOOD news is that NC is
in the top half
of states on prison spending!)

On a College Wait List?
Sending Cookies Won’t Help

How to Keep Talented Teachers from Leaving

Money Cuts Both Ways in Education
how the rising tide of US inequality
in income &  in educational spending hurts not only poor kids, but the rich ones as well

America the Clueless
speaks for itself

current events

the 1% are only half the problem

Celebrating Inequality

early May 2013

Martian Chroniclers

the new era of planetary exploration

highest resolution image of Mercury surface by Messenger

Lunar Impacts Created Seas of Molten Rock

evidence for Ancient Magma Ocean on Mercury

watch black holes shred stars

ESA's Herschel unexpectedly

 Youngest Stars Ever Seen

Methuselah star:
0.7 billion years older than the universe?

NASA Swift discovers one of the youngest supernova remnants

Project 1640 discovers four unusually red exoplanets

First Hint of Cosmic Neutrinos
from Antarctica observatory...
first neutrinos from outside solar system
since 1987

new accurate distance to Large Magellanic Cloud
will narrow value of Hubble constant;
paper here

Fire in the Hole
a simple black hole question that we thought
we knew the answer to

(What happens to an astronaut who falls toward a black hole?)

shakes the foundations of physics & is still unresolved

(and of personal interest to me, since I taught
one of the authors
33 years ago)

from slightly earlier:
Alice and Bob Meet
the Wall of Fire


Higgs minimalism
Nature, April 25, 2013,
pp. 439-440

the Higgs' properties are

are strikingly consistent with expectations for the Higgs particle of the minimal standard model of particle physics


What It Feels Like to be Bad at Math
what to do when you encounter failure...
a must read for everyone

Brain Interrupted:
how distractions make you
20% dumber
or why there's no such thing as

the world's top 65 thinkers
Richard Dawkins heads the list;
but do thinkers matter anymore?

current events

spring cleaning 2013:
let's get rid of flip-flops,
college rankings, and Texas
(Washington Post)


The Mathematics of Juggling

march-april 2013   astro/culture updates