keep up with astrophysics news
and improve your cultural literacy 
.... now in its 7th year
feedback, questions, broken links, and what not:

last updated: 
9 am  November 22, 2019

November guide to the bright planets   or the   This Week's Sky-at-a-glance

solar system

stars and in
between them

(and ET life)

galaxies &

relativity, quantum, & particle physics


science & tech

late November 2019

A meteor burst?
(Earth & Sky)
Thurs night,  11/21, 11:30 pm ET - 12:10 am
the alpha Monocerotids

Interstellar intruders
upending astronomy?

but 2 is not nearly enough

Water vapor on Europa
detected spectroscopically, but less than thought

The first global map of Titan

shows dunes, lakes, plains, labyrinths,
craters, hummocks
(Sky & Telescope)

What drives plate tectonics

First detection of sugar in a meteorite
in Murchison and NWA801

yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥

how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

How much do you know about climate change?
(Washington Post)
a 10-question quiz on which  reasonably-informed people should not expect a perfect score
sample idiocies: some responses are in
°C, some in °F, some without units;
what kind of person knows the combined ice loss rate in Greenland/Antarctica off the top of their heads?

Iceless in Alaska
(Scientific American)

What if all that flying is good for the planet?
(NY Times)
or, a life without tourism

climate solutions

How Dem candidates want to decarbonize transportation
(Scientific American)
ever hear of tables, SA?


Economic risks of climate change underestimated
(Yale Climate)

published paper
(Earth Institute,
Columbia U)


A breakthrough in solar technology?
(Ars Technica)
in solar energy collection efficiency

The future of energy storage:  nanomaterials
free for the moment

γ-ray bursts
& first ground detection

The most extreme 
γ-ray bursts
a summary of 3 published papers
see bottom link for papers

γ-ray secrets revealed
(Scientific American)
radiation produced by inverse Compton scattering

Record breaking
γ-ray bursts
(Science News)

Breaking the limits
(Max Planck)

and even Smithsonian has something to say

paper 1
paper 2
paper 3
free to read, but not save
courtesy of Smithsonian & Scientific American

How large can a planet be?
(Universe Today)
20 Earth radii,
13 Jupiter masses
but the most massive aren't necessarily the largest size

ET life

(Scientific American)
at Penn State U

The direction of galactic spin depends on mass?
(Science in Public)

Star ejected by Milky Way's SMBH
(Earth & Sky)
first ever observed

The strong CP problem
(Starts with a Bang)
physics' most underrated puzzle?

read with skepticism

Fifth-force particle seen in helium?
(Big Think)
the X17

read while smirking

Fate of black holes?
holograms within
a hologram?

The next decade will be just as bad
(NY Times)
2010s: a grifter's paradise
or worse?

an election a year away

Winners & losers:
Dem debate #5

wasn't family leave also a winner?
it's only #5?
bottom line: there is no front-runner

Winners & losers,
take 2

(Washington Post)
why are Gabbard and Biden still here?

candidates' stands on 50 issues


Why a new NAFTA is pointless
(NY Times)
without a Mexican guarantee of workers' rights

Against economics
(NY Books)
it's not a science
will it ever be?

Highway to hell
(The Guardian)
rise and fall of the car

Why billionaires don't like capitalism

Does it matter if Stephen Miller is a white nationalist?
(NY Times)


25 National Book Award fnalists

Money and Government:
The Past and Future of Economics

(NY Books)
repeat after me:
economics is not a science

will it ever be?


Troy: myth and reality
(British Museum)
the exhibition:

11/21/2019 - 03/08/2020

Superstrings, Runes, the Nunes, the Gordian knot
(Not Even Wrong)
Anselm Kiefer at White Cube, London
until 1/26/2020

and The Guardian review

The world's most dangerous garden
the poison garden at Altwick

Advice for grad students, part 2
on mentors & careers

NC legislature fails democracy
(Raleigh N&O)
they adjourn rather than address the budget and teacher raises

NC-AAPT meeting
@NCSSM, Nov14-15

Science & religion are 'gifts to each other'?
new age idiocy

bad tech

Dinner with Trump, Zuck, and Thiel
(New York)
'the most excruciating dinner possible'
is there a worse trio?

limited time?  read the most interesting & important stories from  early November 2019:

1)   Ukraine & impeachment

2)  climate warnings:

ban emergency, say 11,000 scientists

a year of bad reports

it's not normal

3)   a rare Mercury transit

4)  new NC congressional districts

like 2 seats to turn over from R to D in 2020?

will Courts approve?

5)  a smaller proton?

6)   Medicare for all, explained

early November 2019

Hayabusa heads home
with samples of Ryugu
Earth arrival: late 2020

Does Io have a magma ocean?


Nov 11 transit of Mercury
(Sky & Telescope)
only 13x a century

watch it live here
do citizen science

, if you missed it,
see images from 11/11/19
 watch the whole transit in 1 minute

Transits from the past
(NY Times)

Last chance till 2032
(Washington Post)

The view from Voyager 2
(Sky & Telescope)
of interstellar space

Extant life on Mars
program of 4-day conference
(11/5 - 11/8, 2019)

with links 1-page summaries of each talk

The asteroid that came within 1 Earth-radius of Africa
on Halloween

(Earth & Sky)
and the high price it paid

Ultima Thule renamed 'Arrokoth'
(Earth & Sky)
to avoid Nazi link

yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥

how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

The year of devastating climate reports
(Scientific American)

World scientists deliver 'climate emergency' warning
it's a moral imperative

Global warming is not part of normal climate variability
(Scientific American)
science with graphs

climate consequences

Global warming: and a chain reaction in the Pacific
(Washington Post)

The U.S. betrayal of the Marshall Islands
(LA Times)
an impending nuclear disaster caused by rising seas

1-meter sea-level rise by 2300 is now inevitable
(Ars Technica)
based on Paris pledges for 2030

published paper

Global warming is already destroying New England fisheries
(New Republic)

Restoring nature is the key to limiting climate change

Even the dead can't escape climate change
(Scientific American)
floodwaters will make the dead to rise again

climate solutions

How to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 38% in 10 years
(The Atlantic)
a carbon tax
so why are 70 of 71 sponsors Democrats, and the 1 Republican is retiring?

How to remove atmospheric CO2 and make money

Ocracoke: time to abandon it?
(Washington Post)
permanently, due to rising seas

The technological and economic prospects for CO2 utilization & renewal
an 11-page review

Why carbon capture hasn't saved us from climate change

Trump admin files paperwork to leave Paris climate accords

climate writing

Democratic Presidential candidates: very different paths to clean energy
(Scientific American)
Republican candidates: no paths?

How did scientists get climate change so wrong?
(NY Times)
few thought the effects would arrive so we face once-fringe scenarios

Climategate: 10 yrs on... have we learned anything?
(The Guardian)

Climagate: Science of a Scandal
premieres on 11/14 on BBC4


EPA to limit science used to write public health laws
(NY Times)

How California leaks global-warming methane
(Science News)

Plastics outnumber baby fish in (some)
coastal nurseries

(Science News)
by 7 - 1

published article

The changing face of the Sun
(Earth & Sky)
from Solar Max (2014) to almost Solar Min (2019)

A record X-ray burst
(Earth & Sky)
a thermonuclear flash on a
putting out more energy in 2 seconds than the Sun does in 1 day

The Harvard computers
the women who jump-started astronomy

The new science of novae
(Physics Today,
Nov. 2019 issue)

A possible trigger for type IA SN explosions
(U Connecticut)

Tracing interstellar H2 with HF
scroll down for English

A new class of black holes?
(Ohio St. U)
a stellar-mass black hole in a binary that is not emitting x-rays

published article
free for the moment

read with caution

Is there a mostly-undiscovered population of low-mass black holes?
(Starts with a Bang)
does finding 1 object justify such a claim?

A bonanza of exoplanets orbiting multiple- star systems

Lessons from 4 newborn planets
(AAS Nova)
insight into how planetary systems form and evolve 

ET life

Has ancient Earth life escaped the solar system?
(Earth & Sky)
estimate: likely multiple times


Why Li, B, & B are so (relatively) rare
(Starts with a Bang)
with a nice diagram
of which-element-originated-where

A correlation of galactic rotations and motions of near neighbors
over scales of megaparsecs

Another day, another H
0 measurement
(Clemson U)
using background  γ-rays:
H0 = 67.5 km/s/Mpc

Interstellar C60 formation solved?
(U Arizona)
buckeyballs come from supernovae-produced SiC

Yes, distant galaxies are receding from us faster than light
(Starts with a Bang)

Does a leaky galaxy help solve the problem of the reionization of the early universe?
(Science News)

Galactic fountains and carousels: order emerging from chaos
(Royal Astronomical Society)
simulating galactic evolution

Dark energy: the biggest unsolved problem in the universe?
(Starts with a Bang)

An 850-Myr A.B. shows traces of 'metals'
(Max Planck Institute)
at least one generation of stars existed before

read with caution

Hunting for a dark matter wake
(AAS Nova)
from the LMC as it plows throught Milky Way's halo

Have we got the shape of the universe wrong?
maybe it's
Curved, not flat?
(The Conversation)
by the authors of the
(Nature Astronomy)
based on Planck data

masking a cosmological crises?

Objective reality
doesn't exist?

(The Conversation)

published paper
(Science Advances)

Have neutrinos taught us new insights into matrices?
a new, quick method of getting eigenvectors from eigenvalues

Fusion: inching toward planet-saving reality?
(Washington Post)
yeah, definitely inching...
in 2040? or 2050?  or?
and only with much more government funding... you know, like Trump supports

Einstein's entanglements
quantum theory,
black holes,
& Michele Besso

Progress on the
proton-radius puzzle

tipping the scales toward a smaller proton

has the puzzle been solved?
(Physics Today)

100 years of
General Relativity

it baffled the press and the public, but made Einstein a celebrity

Nuclear fusion:
when not if?


Have we detected gravitational waves?
and why this question lingers

The 'mindless speculation' of theoretical particle physicists
but that crisis is not only happening in physics

Nobel prize, redux

Paul Dirac's Nobel Prize

(Physics Today,
Nov. 2019 issue)

read with extreme caution

Defending the indefensible:
multiverse theory

(Slate Star Codex)
by "building intuitions on non-empirical arguments in science"
aka 'by freeing science from experimental evidence'

3 talks on supergravity
(Breakthrough Prize)
from the Breakthrough Prize Symposium
but keep repeating "there
is zero evidence for supergravity"

Space and time:
discrete or continuous in a quantum universe?

(Starts with a Bang)

Is an unseen axion messing with dark energy?

Ukraine & impeachment

Impeachment hearings: Day 2
4 takeaways

Impeachment Hearings Day 1
4 takeaways

What you learned depended on which TV channel you watched

(Washington Post)

What Biden really did in Ukraine
(NY Times)

What Trump really did in Ukraine
(The Guardian)

Who's who in the impeachment hearings on Ukraine

Fact-checker guide to impeachment hearing spin
(Washington Post)


Is there no 2020 Democrat for all seasons?
(NY Books)

How Latinos saved many American cities
(Washington Post)

Cancel student debt?
(American Prospect)
or almost all of it
a pardon for bad behavior?

The 2020 election calendar
and you thought it hadn't even begun
or maybe you thought it began years ago?

Warren's Medicare4All

How it's pay for
(Simon Johnson,
via OnPoint)

2 'expert letters'
from the Warren camp

the plan to play,


does Warren's plan add up?
(Washington Post)

Election day 2019:
5 winners;
3 losers


Americans have questions about Medicare4All...
Canadians have answers

(Washington Post)



Yet another 'Midway' movie:
is this one a true story?

sailors, & pilots

Marvel movies aren't cinema
(Martin Scorsese, NY Times)
a tempest in a tiny teapot

Declining football participation
(NY Times)

How to save football?
(Raleigh N&O)


not entertainment

How American ends
(The Atlantic)

American billionaires
rise again
(Washington Post)
Bloomberg, Gates, Z-berg et al. vs. the populist Democrats

5 better uses for Bloomberg's money
(Washington Post)

The damage done to the nation will outlast Trump
(The Atlantic)

The betrayal of the Kurds
(NY Books)

The defeat of General Mattis
(NY Books)

Slander: the last refuge of the scoundrel
(Washington Post)

The GOP defense against impeachment
(Washington Post)
now there's
a surprise


voter suppression

New GOP plan for NC congressional districts: 8/5  GOP majority for equal Dem-Rep votes
(Raleigh N&O)
and GOP leaders think it's fair

Is American a democracy?
If so, why does it deny millions the vote?

(The Guardian)

voter unsuppression

NC legislature approves new congressional districts
(Raleigh N&O)
on party line vote...
will Courts approve?
plaintiffs to appeal...
GOP: 'we did our best'

"it isn't about 'fair'"
ok, GOP: what is it about?

7 non-partisan redistricting bills have been filed in NC this year
(NC NonProfits)
although you wouldn't know it from the lame reporting

NC GOP throws in towel: accepts non-partisan redistricting
(Raleigh N&O)
finally, the end of NC partisan gerrymandering?

Re-draw starts Tuesday 11/5
or Wednesday 11/13?

Will now-in-charge-of-VA Dems ban gerrymandering by constitutional amendment?
(Washington Post)


The Man Who Solved the Market
(Not Even Wrong)
why James Simons gave up studying math and found $23 billion on Wall Street

Don't Be Evil
(WBUR OnPoint, 1-hour audio)
here's looking at you Big Tech

Lessons in survival
(NY Books)
moving inland, due to climate change

Blowout by Rachel Maddow
(NY Times review)
how Western bankers and fossil-fuel companies paved the way for Putin's power
uh, that would be the fossil-fuel industry


Apollo 12 flew
50 years ago:
the photos

(The Atlantic)

Venice underwater
(The Atlantic)
highest tide in 50 yrs

King Tut leaves Egypt again

(Saatchi Gallery)
Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh,
in London,
until May 2020

Paris and its bridges
(NY Times)

Take down the Mona Lisa?
(NY Times)
a security hazard and educational obstacle?

7 other suggestions
(Washington Post)
e.g., make finding it a scavenger hunt

Is Salvator Mundi really on a yacht?
(Art Newspaper)

Searching for the rectangular Sun
(NY Times)
above the Arctic circl

No raises for you,
NC teachers

(Raleigh N&O)

Still waiting on the NC legislature to do the right thing
(Raleigh N&O)
more money for education and higher teacher salaries

Is college worth it?
(Washington Post)
some surprising results


Astrophysicist Virginia Trimble:
the interview

on big discoveries, modeling for Feynman, and sexual harassment in science

Physics tops Finance in economic impact
in Europe at least

Fluid dynamics of wildfires
(Physics Today,
Nov. 2019 issue)

The 4th state of water


Why writing a number as the sum of 3 cubes is a
hard problem

but high-school math helps


The end of Florida orange juice?
(Washington Post)
it's coming

90% of groves infected;
70% drop in growers since 2004

The importance of sleep
(Scientific American)
sleep power-washes the brain

The intelligence of trees
should not be underestimated

none of the above

How the medieval Catholic Church's ban on incest made the modern world
(Science News)

Nature at 150
blasts from the past

Detection of a strange partilcle

The structure of DNA

The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole

First exoplanet around a sun-like star

bad tech

Yes! Robots are stealing your jobs

(Andrew Yang, via
NY Times)

good for GDP;
bad for people

Health records of 50 million Americans at risk
(The Guardian)

says the the Google whistle-blower

Uber fined $650 million for saying its drivers are not employees
(NY Times)
and that's just by New Jersey

Elon Musk & co.:
destroying the night sky

(NY Times)
a threat to astronomy

Facebook: not just allowing lies
(NY Times)
it's prioritizing them

Digital Disaster
(Issue One)
the failures of the political-ad transparency policies at Fbook, Google, and Twitter
a 22-page report

bad media

The media's big bias: centrism

The right-wing bias of the media
(New Republic)

bad billionaires

Bill Gates et al. warn that higher taxes would lead to lower growth
(NY Times)
they have their facts backward

limited time?  read the most interesting & important stories from  late October 2019:

1)   a(nother) epic Facebook fail

assaulting the truth while pretending to defend free speech

2)  climate news

rising seas will endanger 3x more people than thought

the dinosaur-killing asteroid lowered ocean pH drastically
and likely was the trigger for mass extinction
bad news for our warming climate?

the 4 worst climate criminal countries

another impact-caused climate event?

3)  do neutron stars explain everything?

4)  another interstellar comet visitor?

5)  voter suppression still

6) millennials vs. boomers

7)  Google claims quantum supremacy
.... others disagree

learn more about

climate change


exoplanet biosignatures (1) and exoplanet biosignatures (2)

dark energy

Hubble tension

the multiverse

previous astro/culture updates

from 2019:

july-august 2019          
september-october 2019
january-february 2019          march-april 2019          may-june 2019

from 2018:

july-august 2018           september-october 2018           november-december 2018
january-february 2018         
march-april 2018            may-june-2018

from 2017:

july-august 2017          september-october 2017          november-december 2017

january-february 2017         march-april 2017          may-june 2017           

 from 2016:

july-august 2016          september-october 2016             november-december 2016

                  may-june 2016          march-april 2016          january-february 2016  

 from 2015:

november-december 2015          september-october 2015          july-august 2015

may-june 2015          march-april 2015         
january-february 2015

 from 2014:

november-december 2014          september_october 2014          july-august 2014

may-june 2014          march-april 2014          january-february 2014

from 2013:

november-december 2013         
september-october 2013         july-august 2013