Magellanic Cloud

34 results back to index


pages: 442 words: 110,704

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel

Albert Einstein, card file, Cepheid variable, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Ernest Rutherford, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, index card, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Solar eclipse in 1919

To Magellan’s eye, they had resembled a pair of luminous clouds afloat in the southern night sky. Astronomers who later resolved the clouds into star clusters still called them by Magellan’s name. In early 1905, in the Small Magellanic Cloud alone, Miss Leavitt uncovered nine hundred new variables. “What a variable-star ‘fiend’ Miss Leavitt is,” Charles Young of Princeton wrote in awe to Pickering on March 1, 1905. “One can’t keep up with the roll of the new discoveries.” Mrs. Draper expressed similar sentiments about “Miss Leavitt’s remarkable discovery of variables,” on March 11. As the tally continued to rise, Mrs. Draper wrote again in May to applaud “the large number of variables in the Small Magellan Cloud. It is certainly strange that so many of them should be found apparently close together. Will you please congratulate Miss Leavitt for me.” She offered congratulations also to Pickering’s brother, William, “upon the discovery of the tenth satellite of Saturn, [as] he is now proprietor of two of the planet’s attendants.”

Miss Leavitt, denied such intimacy with the heavens, could only imagine herself standing agape in the Andes, under the southern meanders of the Milky Way, watching the Magellanic Clouds trail after the star stream like a pair of lost sheep. Bailey believed the two Clouds to be unique structures, separate from the Milky Way. If so, if they in fact existed outside the bounds of the galaxy, then each Cloud constituted its own so-called island universe. Possibly the numerous other splotchy white nebulous objects scattered through space were also separate star systems, independent of the Milky Way. Bailey’s two- and four-hour exposures of the Magellanic Clouds, taken with the Bruce telescope, had revealed crowds of stars as faint as seventeenth magnitude. Miss Leavitt picked her way among them in her initial study by repeating the Baileys’ globular-cluster strategy: She ruled a reticule of one-centimeter squares on a glass plate, rendering it a transparent sheet of graph paper.

Having twice updated her “Provisional Catalogue of Variable Stars” to append the new crops of 1903 and 1904, she hardly expected her “Second Catalogue of Variable Stars,” published in 1907, to be her final word on the subject. Miss Cannon was a census taker in the midst of a population explosion. The Second Catalogue, though comprehensive, concentrated on the variable stars of long period. It did not include the multitude of short-period variables Miss Leavitt had uncovered in the Magellanic Clouds. Those required a separate treatment, currently nearing completion by Miss Leavitt herself. “It may be asked,” Solon Bailey wrote in an article for Popular Science Monthly, “why it is necessary, or even desirable, to go on indefinitely with the discovery of new variables.” Aside from “the value of adding any new fact about the universe to the sum of human knowledge,” he offered an astronomer’s version of the mountaineer’s “Because it’s there.”


pages: 412 words: 122,952

Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, Copley Medal, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, horn antenna, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Occam's razor, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, Solar eclipse in 1919, William of Occam

Peering through a magnifying eyepiece at two photographic plates of the Small Magellanic Cloud, taken at different times, she noticed that several stars in the cloud had changed in brightness. On one plate a particular star was relatively luminous; on another plate that same star had turned far dimmer. It was as if the star were undergoing a slow-motion twinkle. Over the following year, she looked at additional images of the cloud and found dozens more. With each new delivery of plates from Harvard's station in Peru (and checks on old ones going back to 1893), she readily and meticulously updated her count, so much so that a Princeton astronomer described her as a “variable-star ‘fiend.’” Soon she included the Large Magellanic Cloud in her tally, and by 1907 she found a record-setting total of 1,777 new variable stars residing within the prominent, mistlike clouds (before that, only a couple of dozen variable stars had been detected in the Magellanic Clouds).

Soon she included the Large Magellanic Cloud in her tally, and by 1907 she found a record-setting total of 1,777 new variable stars residing within the prominent, mistlike clouds (before that, only a couple of dozen variable stars had been detected in the Magellanic Clouds). She dutifully reported her findings in the 1908 Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College, with thirteen pages taken up with listing every new variable she had discovered, its exact position in the sky, as well as its minimum and maximum brightness. More intriguing was what she wrote at the end of this paper. Over the course of her painstaking examination of the Small Magellanic Cloud, she came to notice a special group of variable stars, sixteen in number. They were later identified as Cepheid variables, stars that are thousands of times more luminous than our Sun. Their name was derived from one of the first and brightest discovered, δ Cephei, located in the constellation Cepheus the King, a major landmark in the northern sky.

Soon after Pickering's death, Leavitt at last divulged her most cherished interest to the observatory's new director, Harlow Shapley. Once he arrived at Harvard in 1920, she lost no time in asking his advice on advancing her research on the stars in the Magellanic Clouds. By then Shapley had already calibrated the Cepheids, but he told Leavitt he would like to see a deeper investigation of the short-period variables, stars that pulse over a matter of hours instead of many days. “[It's] of enormous importance in the present discussions of the distances of globular clusters and the size of the galactic system,” he said. Moreover, does the same period-luminosity law also work for stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud? he asked. He wished her success on tackling these questions. But just as she was on the verge of completing her prolonged stellar magnitude project—possibly when she would have at last gone back to her work on the Cepheids—Henrietta Leavitt passed away at the age of fifty-three.


pages: 330 words: 99,226

Extraterrestrial Civilizations by Isaac Asimov

Albert Einstein, Cepheid variable, Columbine, Edward Charles Pickering, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, invention of radio, invention of the telescope, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

They were first described in 1521 by the chronicler accompanying Magellan’s voyage of circumnavigation of the globe—so they are called the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud. They were not studied in detail until John Herschel observed them from the astronomic observatory at the Cape of Good Hope in 1834 (the expedition that fueled the Moon Hoax). Like the Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds turned out to be assemblages of vast numbers of very dim stars, dim because of their distance. In the first decade of the twentieth century, the American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868–1921) studied certain variable stars in the Magellanic Clouds. By 1912, the use of these variable stars (called Cepheid variables because the first to be discovered was in the constellation Cepheus) made it possible to measure vast distances that could not be estimated in other ways. The Large Magellanic Cloud turned out to be 170,000 light-years away and the Small Magellanic Cloud 200,000 light-years away.

The Large Magellanic Cloud turned out to be 170,000 light-years away and the Small Magellanic Cloud 200,000 light-years away. Both are well outside the Galaxy. Each is a galaxy in its own right. They are not large, however. The Large Magellanic Cloud may include perhaps 10 billion stars and the Small Magellanic Cloud only about 2 billion. Our Galaxy (which we may refer to as the Milky Way Galaxy if we wish to distinguish it from others) is 25 times as large as both Magellanic Clouds put together. We might consider the Magellanic Clouds as satellite galaxies of the Milky Way Galaxy. Is this all, then? A certain suspicion arose concerning a faint, fuzzy patch of cloudy matter in the constellation Andromeda; a patch of dim light called the Andromeda Nebula. Even the best telescopes could not make it separate into a conglomeration of dim stars.

The American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble (1889–1953), using that telescope, was finally able to resolve the outskirts of the Andromeda Nebula into masses of very faint stars. It was the “Andromeda Galaxy” from that point on. By the best modern methods of distance determination, it would appear that the Andromeda Galaxy is 2,200,000 light-years distant, eleven times as far away as the Magellanic Clouds. No wonder it was difficult to make out the individual stars. The Andromeda Galaxy is no dwarf, however. It is perhaps twice as large as the Milky Way Galaxy and may contain up to 600 billion stars. The Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the two Magellanic Clouds are bound together gravitationally. They form a “galactic cluster” called the Local Group and are not the only members, either. There are some twenty members altogether. There is one, Maffei I, which is about 3,200,000 light-years away, and it is just about as large as the Milky Way.


pages: 203 words: 63,257

Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, New Journalism, race to the bottom, random walk, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Skype, Solar eclipse in 1919, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, undersea cable, uranium enrichment

The view from the top is spectacular during the day, but is absolutely stunning at night when the star-studded Milky Way arches across the sky, accompanied by two fuzzy patches of light, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, off to one side. Ian Shelton, a thirty-year-old Canadian who grew up in Winnipeg, happened to be here at Las Campanas on the night of February 23, 1987. He was employed as the resident observer at a modest 24-inch telescope that belonged to the University of Toronto. In addition to taking the data that Toronto astronomers asked for, he found time to tinker with an even smaller 10-inch telescope on the mountain. Built over a half century ago and housed in a small shed, it lacked an autoguider to track the stars, so Shelton had to adjust its pointing by eye. As he often did, that night Shelton trained the little telescope on the bigger of the Milky Way’s two sidekicks, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), and registered long exposures of this dwarf galaxy onto old-fashioned photographic plates in order to look for variable stars in its midst.

Large Hadron Collider: The world’s most powerful particle accelerator, located at the CERN laboratory near Geneva. leptons: A family of elementary particles, including the electron and the neutrino, which are not subject to the strong force but interact via the weak force. light-year: The distance that light travels in a year, just under 10 trillion kilometers (or about 6 trillion miles). Magellanic Clouds: The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC) are two irregularly shaped satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. Supernova 1987A occurred in the LMC. Manhattan Project: The research and development program that produced the first atomic bombs during the Second World War. Many top physicists worked on the project under the auspices of the U.S. government, with additional support from the United Kingdom and Canada.

Even though neutrinos turned out not to be superluminal in the end, they have taught us a great deal already about the shenanigans of the subatomic realm and allowed us to peer deep into the Sun’s scorching heart. Besides, without neutrinos, nuclear power generators and nuclear bombs would not be possible. Neutrinos were the first harbingers of the dramatic demise of a massive, bloated star that exploded 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way that appears as a fuzzy patch in the southern sky. Three underground detectors in Japan, Russia, and the United States recorded a total of two dozen neutrinos from the explosion, out of the billions upon billions that swept through the Earth, in a short burst on February 23, 1987. It was only a few hours later that astronomers scanning the skies from a far-flung mountaintop observatory in Chile saw the supernova in visible light.


pages: 661 words: 169,298

Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Cepheid variable, Commentariolus, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, delayed gratification, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Karl Jansky, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, planetary scale, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Solar eclipse in 1919, source of truth, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Leavitt spent thousands of hours at it, and in doing so acquired an unusual degree of familiarity with the southern sky. She happened to be assigned to a region that includes the Magellanic Clouds. So named because they attracted the attention of Magellan and his crew on their voyage around the world, the Magellanic Clouds are two large, shaggy patches of softly glowing light that resemble detached swatches of the Milky Way. We know today, as Leavitt and her contemporaries did not, that the Clouds are nearby galaxies, and that the stars in each Cloud therefore all lie at about the same distance from us, like fireflies in a bottle viewed from across a field at night. This means that any significant difference in the apparent magnitudes of stars in a Magellanic Cloud must result from genuine differences in their absolute magnitudes and not from the effect of differing distances.

Since only a tiny fraction of the stars in the sky are visible without a telescope, Supernovae almost always seem to have appeared out of nowhere, in a region of the sky where no star had previously been charted; hence the name nova, for “new.” Supernovae bright enough to be seen without a telescope are rare; the next one after the seventeenth century did not come until 1987, when a blue giant star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to the Milky Way, to the delight of astronomers in Australia and the Chilean Andes. The two Supernovae that graced the Renaissance caused quite a stir, inciting not only new sights but new ideas. Tycho spotted the supernova of 1572 on the evening of November 11, while out taking a walk before dinner, and it literally stopped him in his tracks. As he recalled the moment: Amazed, and as if astonished and stupefied, I stood still, gazing for a certain length of time with my eyes fixed intently upon it and noticing that same star placed close to the stars which antiquity attributed to Cassiopeia.

This means that any significant difference in the apparent magnitudes of stars in a Magellanic Cloud must result from genuine differences in their absolute magnitudes and not from the effect of differing distances. Thanks to this happy circumstance, Leavitt in studying Cepheid variable stars in the Magellanic Clouds was able to notice a correlation between their brightness and their period of variability—the brighter the Cepheid, the longer its cycle of variation. The period-luminosity function Leavitt discovered was to become the cornerstone of measuring distance in the Milky Way and beyond. Shapley, out to chart the Milky Way galaxy, seized on the Cepheids with great enthusiasm. Using the big sixty-inch Mount Wilson telescope, he photographed globular star clusters—spectacular assemblages of hundreds of thousands to millions of stars —identified Cepheid variable stars in each of them, then employed the Cepheids to calibrate the distances of the clusters. “The results are continual pleasure,” he wrote the astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn in 1917.


pages: 492 words: 149,259

Big Bang by Simon Singh

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, carbon-based life, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, Copley Medal, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Hans Lippershey, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Kickstarter, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, scientific mainstream, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, Wilhelm Olbers, William of Occam

The situation seemed hopeless, and most astronomers would have given up, but Leavitt’s patience, dedication and concentration led her to a rather cunning and brilliant idea. She made her breakthrough by focusing her attention on the stellar formation known as the Small Magellanic Cloud, named after the sixteenth-century explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who recorded it when he sailed the southern oceans while circumnavigating the globe. Because the Small Magellanic Cloud is visible only from the southern hemisphere, Leavitt had to rely on photographs taken at Harvard’s southern station at Arequipa in Peru. Leavitt managed to identify twenty-five Cepheid variables within the Small Magellanic Cloud. She did not know the distance from the Earth to the Small Magellanic Cloud, but she suspected that it was relatively far away and that the Cepheids within it were relatively close together. In other words, all twenty-five Cepheids were more or less at the same distance from the Earth.

In other words, all twenty-five Cepheids were more or less at the same distance from the Earth. Suddenly, Leavitt had exactly what she needed. If the Cepheids in the Small Magellanic Cloud were all roughly the same distance away, then if one Cepheid was brighter than another it was because it was intrinsically more luminous, not just apparently brighter. The assumption that the stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud were roughly equidistant from the Earth was something of a leap of faith, but a very reasonable one. Leavitt’s line of thinking was akin to an observer seeing a flock of twenty-five birds in the sky and assuming that the distance between each one is relatively small compared with the distance between the observer and the entire flock. Hence, if one bird seems smaller than the others, then it probably is genuinely smaller.

Hence, if one bird seems smaller than the others, then it probably is genuinely smaller. However, if you saw twenty-five birds spread around the sky and one seemed smaller than the others, then you could not be sure whether that bird was genuinely smaller or just farther away. Leavitt was now ready to explore the brightness versus period relationship for Cepheids. Building on the assumption that the apparent brightness of each Cepheid in the Small Magellanic Cloud was a true indication of its actual brightness in relation to the other Cepheids in the Cloud, Leavitt plotted a graph of the apparent brightness against the period of variation for the twenty-five Cepheid stars. The result was astonishing. Figure 45(a) shows how Cepheids that fluctuate over a longer period are typically brighter, and even more importantly, the data points generally seem to follow a smooth curve.


pages: 378 words: 111,369

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

blood diamonds, gravity well, Magellanic Cloud, oil shale / tar sands

But M-31 is so big and so bright that you can even pick it out from the surface of the Earth when the smog isn’t too bad, whirlpool-lens-shaped fog of stars. It is the brightest of the external galaxies, and you can recognize it fairly well from almost anywhere a Heechee ship is likely to go. With a little magnification you can be sure of the spiral shape, and you can double-check by comparing the smaller galaxies in roughly the same line of sight. While I was zeroing in with M-31, Sam was doing the same with the Magellanic clouds, or what he thought were the Magellanic clouds. (He claimed he had identified S Doradus.) We both began taking theodolitic shots. The purpose of all that, of course, is so that the academics who belong to the Corporation can triangulate and locate where we’ve been. You might wonder why they care, but they do; so much that you don’t qualify for any scientific bonus unless you do the full series of photos. You’d think they would know where we were going from the pictures we take out the windows while in superlight travel.

I live in New York City under the Big Bubble, where you can’t afford to live unless you’re really well fixed, and maybe some kind of celebrity besides. I have a summer apartment that overlooks the Tappan Sea and the Palisades Dam. And the girls go crazy over my three Out bangles. You don’t see too many prospectors anywhere on Earth, not even in New York. They’re all wild to have me tell them what it’s really like out around the Orion Nebula or the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. (I’ve never been to either place, of course. The one really interesting place I’ve been to I don’t like to talk about.) “Or,” says Sigfrid, having waited the appropriate number of microseconds for a response to whatever it was he said last, “if you really are happy, why do you come here for help?” I hate it when he asks me the same questions I ask myself. I don’t answer. I squirm around until I get comfortable again on the plastic foam mat, because I can tell that it’s going to be a long, lousy session.

But all that I didn’t know at the time, and when I sat down in that modified Heechee seat it was all new, new, new. And I don’t know if I can make you understand what it felt like. I mean, there I was, in a seat where Heechee had sat half a million years ago. The thing in front of me was a target selector. The ship could go anywhere. Anywhere! If I selected the right target I could find myself around Sirius, Procyon, maybe even the Magellanic Clouds! Teacher got tired of hanging head-down and wriggled through, squeezing in behind me. “Your turn, Broadhead,” she said, resting a hand on my shoulder and what felt like her breasts on my back. I was reluctant to touch. I asked, “Isn’t there any way of telling where you’re going to wind up?” Classifieds. HOW DO you know you’re not a Unitarian? Gateway Fellowship now forming. 87-539. BILITIS WANTED for Sappho and Lesbia, joint trips till we make it, then happily ever after in Northern Ireland.


pages: 230 words: 63,891

Forever Free by Joe Haldeman

Albert Einstein, Magellanic Cloud, Occam's razor

Now it turns out he did have a boyfriend over in Hardy, very secret, who got mad at him and came over to the college to make a loud public scene. It involved sexual details that we didn't used to discuss at the dinner table. But times change, and fun is fun. Chapter two The thing we were plotting actually grew out of an innocent bantering argument I'd had with Charlie and Diana some months before. Diana had been my medical officer during the Sade-138 campaign, our last, out in the Greater Magellanic Cloud; Charlie had served as my XO. Diana had delivered both Bill and Sara. They were our best friends. Most of the community had taken Sixday off to get together at the Larsons' for a barn-raising. Teresa was an old vet, two campaigns, but her wife Ami was third-generation Paxton. She was our age, biologically, and they had two fusion-clone teenaged daughters. One was off at university, but the other, Sooz, greeted us warmly and was in charge of the coffee and tea.

At the bow of the cylinder was a neat stack of modules left over from the wara kind of build-a-planet kit, the ultimate lifeboat. We knew that earthlike worlds were common. If the ship couldn't make collapsar insertion and go home, those modules gave the people a chance of building a new home. We didn't know whether it had ever happened. There had been forty-three cruisers unaccounted for at the end of the war, some of them so far away that we would never hear from them. My own last assignment had been in the Large Magellanic Cloud, 150,000 light-years away. Most of the rest of the hold was given over to redundancy, materials and tools to rebuild almost anything in the living cylinder, but the area closest to where we were floating was all tools, some as basic as picks and shovels and forklifts, some unrecognizably esoteric. If something went wrong with the drive or the life-support system, there would be no other job for anyone until it was fixedor we were fried or frozen.

Ten billion creatures going off to, as you say, some cosmic nudist colony. Or mass grave." "I'm afraid it is a grave," the woman said. "And we're about to join them." All three of them looked at me. The faceless man spoke. "You did it. You tried to leave the Galaxy. Escape the preserve the nameless established for us." "That's ridiculous," I said. "I've left the Galaxy before. The Sade-138 campaign was in the Greater Magellanic Cloud. Other campaigns were in the Lesser Cloud and the Sagittarius Dwarf." "Collapsar travel is not the same," the woman said. "Wormholes. It's like exchanging one quantum state for another, and then going back." "Like a bungee jump," our fan of the twentieth century added. "With your starship," she continued, "you were actually leaving. You were going into the territory of the nameless." "They told you this?"


pages: 400 words: 94,847

Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science by Michael Nielsen

Albert Einstein, augmented reality, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, Cass Sunstein, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, conceptual framework, dark matter, discovery of DNA, Donald Knuth, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Firefox, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, Kevin Kelly, Magellanic Cloud, means of production, medical residency, Nicholas Carr, P = NP, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Simon Singh, Skype, slashdot, social intelligence, social web, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, University of East Anglia, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge

You perhaps already know that our Milky Way galaxy has two neighboring galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic clouds. These are dwarf galaxies, with the larger of the two containing about 30 billion or so stars, compared to our Milky Way’s hundreds of billions. If you’ve never been to the southern hemisphere, then you may never have seen the Magellanic clouds, for they’re too far south in the sky to be visible from much of the northern hemisphere. But they are visible on a dark night in the southern hemisphere, where they show up as smudges in the sky. According to our best current understanding of galaxy formation, the Milky Way should have tens or hundreds of nearby dwarf galaxies. But prior to the SDSS only a few dwarf galaxies other than the Magellanic clouds had been discovered, and it was a puzzle where all the other missing dwarfs were.

See also meaning found in knowledge Knuth, Donald, 58 Krush, Irina, 16–18, 24–26, 35, 66, 67–68, 74 Lakhani, Karim, 218 language translation by machine, 124–26 Lanier, Jaron, 223 Large Hadron Collider (LHC), 161 Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), 107, 151 lasers, 157 Lauer, Tod, 100–101, 103, 114 lean manufacturing, 36 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 174 Lessig, Lawrence, 220 Lévy, Pierre, 217, 221 libraries, and new knowledge tools, 235–36 line-free configurations, 209–10, 212 Lintott, Chris, 133, 134–35 Linus’s Law, 223 Linux: conscious modularity in development of, 51–52, 56–57 microcontributions to, 63 near-fracturing of, 49–50 origin of, 20, 44–45 release 2.0, 52 societal change and, 158 ubiquity of, 45 Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, 36 Lockyer, Joseph Norman, 138 machine translation, 124–26 Mackay, Charles, 218 Mad Max (film), 34 Magellanic clouds, 99 Manhattan Project, 36 markets: collaboration markets, 85, 86, 87, 182, 196 delivering social benefits of science, 156–57, 158 online collaboration compared to, 37–38 subsumed by online tools, 38–39, 224 Masum, Hassan, 171 mathematical proof. See Polymath Project MathWorks competition, 60–63, 64–66, 74 addictive quality of, 146 filtering information in, 199 shared praxis in, 75 MATLAB, 65, 66 McCarthy, John, 58 McVoy, Larry, 50 meaning found in knowledge: computerized tools and, 5, 112–13, 115–16 data web and, 111 dramatic expansion in, 3, 95–96 nature of explanation and, 128 as new method of discovery, 93.


pages: 404 words: 131,034

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, dematerialisation, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, germ theory of disease, global pandemic, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, planetary scale, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, spice trade, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, Tunguska event

Among my candidates for the sentence that would most thoroughly astonish an astronomer of the early 1900’s is the following, from a paper by David Helfand and Knox Long in the December 6, 1979, issue of the British journal Nature: “On 5 March, 1979, an extremely intense burst of hard x-rays and gamma rays was recorded by the nine interplanetary spacecraft of the burst sensor network, and localized by time-of-flight determinations to a position coincident with the supernova remnant N49 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.” (The Large Magellanic Cloud, so-called because the first inhabitant of the Northern Hemisphere to notice it was Magellan, is a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, 180,000 light-years distant. There is also, as you might expect, a Small Magellanic Cloud.) However, in the same issue of Nature, E. P. Mazets and colleagues of the Ioffe Institute, Leningrad—who observed this source with the gammaray burst detector aboard the Venera 11 and 12 spacecraft on their way to land on Venus—argue that what is being seen is a flaring pulsar only a few hundred light-years away.

We have made a preliminary reconnaissance and have encountered some of the inhabitants. A few of them resemble beings we know. Others are bizarre beyond our most unconstrained fantasies. But we are at the very beginning of our exploration. Past voyages of discovery suggest that many of the most interesting inhabitants of the galactic continent remain as yet unknown and unanticipated. Not far outside the Galaxy there are almost certainly planets, orbiting stars in the Magellanic Clouds and in the globular clusters that surround the Milky Way. Such worlds would offer a breathtaking view of the Galaxy rising—an enormous spiral form comprising 400 billion stellar inhabitants, with collapsing gas clouds, condensing planetary systems, luminous supergiants, stable middle-aged stars, red giants, white dwarfs, planetary nebulae, novae, supernovae, neutron stars and black holes. It would be clear from such a world, as it is beginning to be clear from ours, how our matter, our form and much of our character is determined by the deep connection between life and the Cosmos.


pages: 208 words: 70,860

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, complexity theory, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Laplace demon, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Olbers’ paradox, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, Wilhelm Olbers

Unlike our Sun, which sits alone, most stars come in pairs or groups orbiting each other. Some young stars hang together in their hundreds in loose open clumps, while larger groups, thousands strong, can be found in what are known as globular clusters. We certainly cannot distinguish individual stars in other galaxies. In fact, it is almost impossible to see other galaxies at all without the help of powerful telescopes. Even our nearest neighbor galaxies, Andromeda and the Magellanic Clouds, are barely visible to the naked eye, appearing only as diffuse patches of very faint light. The Andromeda galaxy, which is a little bigger than ours, is 2 million light-years away. If we were to shrink the Milky Way down to the size of the Earth, then Andromeda would be as far away as the Moon. Andromeda contains about 500 billion (or half a trillion) stars. I recall the thrill of first seeing it through a telescope, appearing as a faint fuzzy spiral.

I felt weirdly privileged to have been there at that very moment to capture those photons of light as they made contact with my retina, triggering electrical signals that were sent to the neurons in my brain, making me conscious of what I was seeing. Physicists often tend to think in this strange way. Not only do stars form clusters within galaxies, galaxies themselves also group together in clusters. Our galaxy is one of about forty that together are known as the Local Group and also include the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and Andromeda. Astronomical measurements have now reached such a degree of precision and sophistication, with ever-more powerful telescopes being built, allowing us to probe ever deeper into space, that we now know that galaxy clusters are themselves grouped together into what are known as superclusters. Our Local Group is in fact part of the Local Supercluster. How far out do the contents of our universe extend?


pages: 44 words: 13,669

A Separate War and Other Stories by Joe Haldeman

Magellanic Cloud

We had six months of quiet communion and wild, desperate fun, and still had plenty of money left when it suddenly ended. We were having lunch in an elegant restaurant in Skye, watching the sun sparkle on the calm ocean a klick below, when a nervous private came up, saluted, and gave us our sealed orders. They were for different places. William was going to Sade-138, a collapsar out in the Greater Magellanic Cloud. I was going to Aleph-10, in the Orion group. He was a major, the Yod-4 Strike Force commander, and I was a captain, the executive officer for Aleph-10. It was unbelievable, surreal; monumentally stupid and unfair. We'd been together since Basic-five years or half a millenniumand neither of us was leadership material. Neither of us was even a good private! The army had abundant evidence of that.


Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen

a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, Karl Jansky, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, trade route

With no cities to pollute the darkness, the plains of the African night are bathed in the light of a billion suns. The glowing arc of the Milky Way Galaxy dominates the sky, a silver mist of stars so numerous, they are impossible to count. Every single point of light and every patch of magnificent mist visible to the unaided human eye have as their origin a star in our own galaxy, or the misty clouds known as the Magellanic clouds – two small dwarf galaxies in orbit around the Milky Way. All except for one… To find it, you first need to recognise the distinctive ‘W’ shape of the constellation of Cassiopeia. It sits on the opposite side of Polaris, the North Star, to the constellation Ursa Major, otherwise known as The Great Bear or The Plough. Cassiopeia, being so close to Polaris, is a constant feature in the northern skies – it simply rotates around the pole once every twenty-four hours and never sets below the horizon at high latitudes.

32–44 Young’s double-slit experiment 34–5 Livingstone, David 56 Local Group 149 Lovell Telescope, Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics 182, 183, 183 Lovell, Jim 8 Lucy (human ancestor) 47 Lüderitz, Namibia 216–19 Luna 3 162 Luna 15 96 M M33 (Triangulum galaxy) 25, 25 M51 (Whirlpool galaxy) 25, 25 M87 (Virgo A galaxy) 24, 24, 149, 149 Maffei 1 and 2 13 Magellan, Ferdinand 209 Magellanic clouds 48 magnetic fields 36–7 magnetism 36–7 see also electromagnetism Manhattan Project 115 mapping the night sky 82–3 Mars 45, 96, 153, 154, 155, 156–7 Mauna Kea, Hawaii 155 Maxwell, James Clerk 36–7, 43, 190, 215 Mayans 84 megaparsec 64, 65 Mendeleev, Dmitri 94–5, 97 Mercury 97, 175, 184, 184, 185, 190, 193 ‘The Mercury Seven’ 142 messengers 14–75 microwaves 66, 68, 69, 70–1 Michelson, Albert 120 Milky Way 12, 25, 69, 70, 148, 225, 225 Andromeda collides with 169, 170, 171 birth of stars in 29–31 death of stars in 30–1 mapping the 20, 22–3, 24–5, 26–7 name of 24 Orion Spur 28, 71 shape of 28–9 spiral arms 28 Mir space station 11 Mira (star) 84, 84, 85 Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 146 Moon: creation of 161, 161 gravitational field 159, 160–3, 161, 162, 163 looking at 44, 45 spaceflight to 8, 96–7, 96, 97, 162 Mount Everest 153, 154 Mount Wilson Observatory, Pasadena, California 60, 120 mountains, surface gravity and 154 MSO735.6+7421 (galaxy cluster) 172, 173 Musgrave, Story 53 MyCnl18 (planetary nebula) 125, 125 Mz3 (planetary nebula) 125, 125 N Namib Desert 68–9, 216–21, 236–7, 236, 237 Namibia 68–9, 68, 153, 216–21, 236–7, 239 NASA 11, 53, 84, 85, 132, 133, 142, 146, 159, 169, 176, 180, 190, 221, 231, 235, 240 Neptune 45, 97, 174 neutron 79, 106, 110, 111, 114, 115, 123, 130, 133, 181, 182, 194, 239 neutron degeneracy pressure 195 neutron stars 84, 180, 181, 182, 194 Newcomen, Sir Thomas 214, 215 Newton, Sir Isaac 32, 34, 41, 43, 56, 58, 98–9, 145, 150–1, 163, 184, 185, 190, 193 Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation 150–1, 163, 184, 185, 186, 190, 193 newtons 154, 155 NGC 1068 (galaxy) 239, 239 NGC 281 k (new star-forming region) 67, 67 NGC1300 (galaxy) 53, 53 nubecular minor 25 nuclear fusion/fission 115–17 O OGLE2TRL9b (exoplanet) 174 Olympus Mons 153, 154, 155, 155, 156–7 Omega Nebula 84, 85, 85 origins of being 78–137 ‘atomic hypothesis’ 79 Big Bang 106–11 chemical elements and 79 cycle of life 80–1 early universe 102–17 El Tatio Geysers, Chile 104–5 elements and 94–7, 126–7 exoplanets, how to find 88–9 first stars 118–19 mapping the night sky 82–3 matter by numbers 114 meteorites and 134–5 moon rocks, study of 96 origins of life 92–3 planetary nebulae 124–5 religion and 80–1 role of stars in building blocks of our existence 90–101 simplicity of the universe 112–13 star death 122–3 stellar nurseries 84–5 Sun, Venus transits 86–7 supernova: life cycle of a star 128–37 timeline of the universe 112–13 up and down quarks 79 what are stars made of?


pages: 279 words: 75,527

Collider by Paul Halpern

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, gravity well, horn antenna, index card, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, statistical model, Stephen Hawking

After the MACHO moves on, the light would dim again, back to its original intensity. From this brightness curve, astronomers could determine the MACHO’s mass. During the 1990s, the MACHO Project, an international group of astronomers based at Mt. Stromlo Observatory in Australia, catalogued thirteen to seventeen candidate microlensing events. The team discovered these characteristic brightness variations during an extensive search of the galactic halo using the Large Magellanic Cloud (a smaller neighboring galaxy) to provide the stellar background. From their data, the astronomers estimated that 20 percent of the matter in the galactic halo is due to MACHOs, ranging from 15 percent to 90 percent of the mass of the Sun. These results point to a population of lighter, dimmer stars in the Milky Way’s periphery that cannot directly be seen but only weighed. Though these objects might add some heft to the galactic suburbs, the MACHO Project has shown that they could account for only a fraction of the missing mass.

Landsberg, Greg Lange, Fritz Large Electron Positron Collider (LEP) large extra dimension Large Hadron Collider (LHC) American researchers at antiprotons and black hole research and braneworld hypothesis and CERN and completion of damage from helium leak in dark energy and dark matter and decision to build description of detectors in electricity in region drained by funding of future uses of high-end physics and findings of Higgs particle research using law suits to halt operations of limitations of location of magnets in research on origins of the universe and conditions in string theory and research at tunnel design in undercurrent of fear about potentially dangerous events from operations at Large Magellanic Cloud Lattesésar law of galactic recession law of multiple proportions Lawrence, Ernest Orlando atomic process time interval measurements of cyclotron of family background of University of California, Berkeley, research of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory lead ions, in particle detectors Lederman, Leon Lee, Tsung Dao Leibniz, Gottfried Leigh, R. G. Lemaitre, Georges length contraction lepton colliders leptons Leucippus LHC.


Exoplanets by Donald Goldsmith

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Carrington event, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, dark matter, Dava Sobel, en.wikipedia.org, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, megastructure, Pluto: dwarf planet, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking

Today the site’s administration building allows astronomers and technicians to breathe more easily, not by artificially increasing the atmospheric pressure, which would require airlocks and much added expense, but by the more ingenious approach of employing special filters that enrich the fraction of oxygen in the building’s air.8 Figure 12 ​This nighttime view of part of the ALMA array shows the southern skies’ chief fuzzy ornaments, the two satellites of our galaxy called the Magellanic Clouds, beyond the closest dish. (Courtesy of the Eu­ro­pean Southern Observatory / C. Malin [cc BY 4.0]) 143 EXOPLANETS ALMA’s observational triumphs include a plot of millimeter-­ wave emission in the object that astronomers call TW Hydrae, in which dust-­rich gas surrounds a star only a few million years old. ALMA’s map of the distribution of the dust within this “protoplanetary disk” revealed notable gaps suggesting a “clearing-­out” pro­cess similar to what happened—so we think—­within the sun’s own protoplanetary disk.

See Kepler mission Kfir, Sagi, 223 KIC 8462852, 92 Kipping, David, 131 KOI-1843 b, 41 Kuiper, Gerard, 138 Kuiper ­belt, 138 James Webb Space Telescope, 122, 171, 176 Jupiter, 15–22, 27–30, 33–34, 38–41, 58–59, 63, 68–73, 90, 98, 102, 104, 107–11, 116, 119, 122, 127–30, 137, 142, 145–50, 155, 164, 166, 182–86 Jurgenson, Colby, 48 Land, Edwin, 89 Las Campanas Observatory, 196 ­Lasers, 70, 208–13 La Silla Observatory, 44, 46, 58, 123 Latham, David, 52, 109–10 Le Gentil, Guillaume, 53 LHS 1140 b, 111–12 HD 176051, 20 HD 189733 b, 90 HD 209458, 52, 60, 103–6 HD 209458 b (Osiris), 103–7 Helium, 67, 101, 105, 130–33, 138, 140, 152–54, 186–87, 218 Helium-3, 218 Henderson, Calen, 80 HIP 65426, 73 Hot Jupiters, 41, 63, 90, 104, 109–10, 127, 145–46, 186 Howard, Andrew, 47, 49 HR 8799, 72, 106 HR 8832, 116–18 Huang, Su-­Shu, 161 Hubble Space Telescope, 55, 70, 83–84, 106, 108, 111, 176–79, 182, 188, 193 Hydrocarbon, 165 Hydrogen, 67, 99, 106, 130–33, 137–40, 152–53, 164–65, 185, 187 250 Index Life, extraterrestrial, 4, 6–7, 90, 98, 102, 111, 124, 156–75, 191–94, 199, 206–7, 210–13, 216–19, 222 Light year, 11–12, 68, 208, 214 Lissauer, Jack, 1, 139 Loeb, Avi, 157, 169 Lowell, Percival, 47–48 Lowell Observatory, 47–48 Lubin, Philip, 209–12 Lucretius, 5–6 Luminosity, 43–44, 82, 93, 101–13, 117–19, 152, 163, 169, 172, 185, 207 Luni-­solar tides, 148–49 LUVOIR (Large UV / Optical InfraRed surveyor), 193–94 Macintosh, Bruce, 154 Magellanic Clouds, 143 Magnesium, 137, 219–20 Magnetic fields, 24–25, 150–51, 158, 168 Makemake, 138 Mars, 47, 49, 54, 98, 116, 124, 137, 140–41, 160–65, 189, 205, 212, 218, 220, 224 Mass of exoplanets, 18, 31–32, 41, 46, 51–62, 70–72, 89–94, 100, 108–12, 116, 124–34, 137–42, 145–47, 150–58, 162–65, 178, 187, 192, 200 of stars, 31–32, 79, 81 Mast, Jerry, 195 Mauna Kea Observatory, 45, 67, 72, 94, 195, 198–99, 204 Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, 108 Mayor, Michel, 32 MEarth, 46, 107, 111 Mercury, 26, 40, 52–54, 96, 113, 115, 129, 133, 145, 149, 151 Metal, 58, 88, 99, 153–54, 177, 219–20 Metallicity, 153 Meteorites, 136 Meteoroids, 124, 136, 159 Methane, 72, 106, 108, 137–38, 165, 172–73 Michelson, Albert, 204 Microlensing, 59, 78–83, 127–28, 166–67, 188 Milky Way, 6, 11–12, 16, 19, 25, 32, 45–47, 57, 62–63, 68, 76–81, 88, 118, 120, 130, 163, 184–88, 199, 208, 210 Millimeter radiation, 8, 142–44, 197 Millisecond pulsars, 26 Milner, Yuri, 212 Moon, 5, 15–16, 64, 75, 122, 128, 136–37, 148–49, 164, 176, 212, 218–21 Moons, exoplanetary, 16, 137, 140, 144, 165–66 Mount Wilson Observatory, 204 M Stars, 46, 111, 118–19, 163, 169–70, 207 Multiple planetary systems, 116, 132 Multiple star systems, 12, 68 NASA, 1, 51, 54, 61–62, 94, 105, 139, 165, 174–81, 188, 192, 203–4, 209, 212, 220 Neap tides, 149 Nelson, Jerry, 195 Neptune, 21–22, 43, 98, 101, 115, 128–33, 138, 144 Nereus, 219–20 Neutron stars, 24–26, 77 Newton, Isaac, 15, 37 Newton’s laws, 29, 38, 50 NGTS (Next Generation Transit Survey), 126 Nickel, 88, 219–20 251 Index Nitrogen, 153, 162 Nuclear fusion, 56, 67, 82–83, 99–100, 119–20, 137, 152, 218 OGLE-2011-­BLG-0420Lb, 82 OGLE-2012-­BLG-0026, 79 OGLE 2016-­BLG-1195Lb, 80–82 Orbital brightness modulation, 85, 87, 90 Orbital resonance, 92, 127, 149 Osiris, 60, 103–7 Outer Space Treaty, 221–22 Oxygen, 137, 143, 153, 162, 172–73, 199, 219 P1257 + 12, 25–26 Palomar Observatory, 195, 204 Panspermia, 124 Paranal Observatory, 49, 73, 126, 197 Parsec, 11–12, 201 Peloton effect, 140 Perlmutter, Saul, 212 Phobetor, 26 Photons infrared, 8, 12–13, 43, 56, 64–72, 94, 104–8, 142, 172, 177–83, 198–99, 204 millimeter-­wave, 8, 142–44, 197 radio, 23, 25, 27, 85–89, 94, 102, 142, 168, 202–3 synchrotron, 24–25 ultraviolet, 8, 43, 56, 110, 123–24, 169, 177–78 visible-­light, 24–25, 55, 58, 76–79, 122, 182, 184, 189–90, 194, 209, 211–12, 215–16 x-­ray, 8, 90, 167, 169–70 Planetesimals, 118, 139–41 Planet Nine, 21–23, 129 Planets, extrasolar.


pages: 312 words: 78,053

Generation A by Douglas Coupland

Burning Man, call centre, Drosophila, hive mind, index card, Live Aid, Magellanic Cloud, McJob, new economy, post-work, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Stephen Hawking

Earth’s space fleet is hopelessly outclassed by the Gamilonians’, and all seems lost until a mysterious space probe is retrieved on Mars. Blueprints for a faster-than-light engine are discovered, and Queen Starsha of the planet Iscandar in the Large Magellanic Cloud sends a message saying that she has a device, the Cosmo-Cleaner D (a.k.a. Cosmo DNA), that can cleanse Earth of its radiation damage. Hang on just a bit longer . . . The inhabitants of Earth secretly convert the ruin of a WWII Japanese battleship, the Yamato, into a massive spaceship. Using Queen Starsha’s blueprints, they equip their new ship with a warp drive and a new, incredibly power ful weapon called a wave motion gun that fires from the bow. A tiny but intrepid crew of 114 leaves in the Yamato to travel to the Large Magellanic Cloud to retrieve the radiation-cleansing device. Along the way, they discover the plight of their blue-skinned adversaries: Gamilon, sister planet to Iscandar, is dying, and its leader, Lord Desslar, is trying to irradiate Earth so that his people can move there, at the expense of the barbarian humans.


pages: 326 words: 97,089

Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings

addicted to oil, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Colonization of Mars, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, full employment, hydraulic fracturing, index card, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Magellanic Cloud, music of the spheres, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, planetary scale, profit motive, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Solar eclipse in 1919, technological singularity, the scientific method, transcontinental railway

Borne on photons, the echoes of primordial and Precambrian time—the formation of planets, the emergence of life on Earth, the oxygenation of our world’s atmosphere, the invasion of the land—all long ago left the Milky Way to wash over the surrounding galaxies, galactic clusters, and superclusters. An observer somewhere among the trillion stars of Andromeda, our nearest neighboring spiral, would today see the Earth of 2.5 million years ago, when the forerunners of Homo sapiens were perfecting the production of crude stone tools in sub-Saharan Africa. Seen from the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy swooping near the Milky Way, our world would be locked in the glacial advance of 160,000 B.C., with our ancestors poised to migrate out of Africa as the ice sheets retreated. Within our own galaxy, the echoes are closer to home. Among the open clusters and blue hypergiant stars of the Carina Nebula, somewhere between 6,500 and 10,000 light-years away, the Earth appears as it was during the rise of agriculture and the Bronze Age civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley.

., 101 Journal of Geophysical Research, 178 Jupiter, 76, 109, 191, 239 Galileo’s study of, 81 Kepler’s laws and, 83 moons of, 28, 110 Jupiter-like planets, 13, 28, 50, 56, 59, 60, 108, 109, 226, 228, 248–49 Kasdin, Jeremy, 219–20 Kasting, Jerry, 150–52 Kasting, Jim, 150–67, 169–84 children of, 153 Kasting, Sandy, 150 Kasting, Sharon, 153 Keck Observatory, 59, 60, 62, 66, 118 Kennedy, John F., 224 Kennedy Space Center, 185 Kepler, Johannes, 82, 83 planetary motion laws of, 82–84 Kepler field stars, 41 Kepler Space Telescope, 13–14, 53–54, 56, 62, 71–73, 98, 108–9, 166, 201, 225, 229–30, 263 Kirschvink, Joseph, 142 Knapp, Mary, 259 Korolev, Sergei, 186 Kuchner, Marc, 217–18 Kuiper Belt, 76 Large Magellanic Cloud, 238 Lasaga, Antonio, 178 Late Heavy Bombardment, 3, 140 Laughlin, Greg, 5–6, 48–50, 53–57, 69–70, 93–100, 107–12, 114–15, 117–20 Alpha Centauri planet search and, 94–98 idea to move Earth, 76–77 magnetic toy of, 93–94 SETI as viewed by, 99 valuation equation of, 71–77 laws of nature, 155–56 Lederberg, Joshua, 15, 16, 167–68 Le Gentil, Guillaume, 85, 117 Leinbach, Mike, 185–86 Lick, James, 112–14 Lick Observatory, 58, 61, 62, 70, 113–19 life, 32 on Earth, see Earth, life on intelligent, 23, 32 single-celled, 20 technological, see technological civilizations light: photons of, 72, 89, 115–16, 156, 191, 193–94, 201, 202, 213, 216, 237–38 polarization of, 115–16 waves of, 213–14, 216 Lilly, John, 15–16, 20–21 Local Group, 88 Lovelock, James, 168, 170, 174–76, 178, 181–83 Lucretius, 80–81 Lyot, Bernard, 217 Madwoman of Chaillot, The, 36 Manhattan Project, 23 Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, 127, 149 Marcellus formation, 126–30, 137, 138, 141, 144, 160 Marconi, Guglielmo, 48 Marconi Conference Center, 48–50, 53–57 Marcy, Geoff, 57–63, 69, 70, 114, 194, 230–32, 235 Margulis, Lynn, 175 Mars, 19, 50, 87, 100, 107, 109, 155, 167, 179, 191, 192, 239 Kepler’s study of, 82, 83 missions to, 187, 188, 196, 207, 221 water on, 28, 179 Marshall, James, 105–6, 112 Martian Chronicles, The (Bradbury), 98–99 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 251–52, 259 ExoplanetSat project, 256–57 “Next 40 Years of Exoplanets” conference at, 225–35, 263 Mayor, Michel, 58 McPhee, John, 145 mEarth Project, 228–29 mediocrity, principle of (Copernican Principle), 83, 89, 91 Mercury, 82, 109, 239 meteorites, 20 methane, 140, 142, 168–71, 174, 200 methanogens, 140, 142, 169 microbes, 28 Miletus, 77 Milky Way, 16–17, 25, 31, 39, 41, 79, 86–87, 191, 237, 238 Sun’s orbit in, 95 Miller, George P., 101 Miller, Stanley, 19 Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, 48, 74 mitochondria, 143 Moon, 3, 76, 100, 229, 242 in early cosmology, 78, 83 formation of, 30, 139 Moon, missions to, 188, 196, 221, 224 Apollo, 1, 50, 151, 187, 202, 212, 239 Morrison, Philip, 15, 18–19, 21, 23–24 Mosely, T.


pages: 624 words: 104,923

QI: The Book of General Ignorance - The Noticeably Stouter Edition by Lloyd, John, Mitchinson, John

Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Barry Marshall: ulcers, British Empire, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Fellow of the Royal Society, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, invention of the telephone, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, lateral thinking, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, Pluto: dwarf planet, trade route, V2 rocket, Vesna Vulović

Given that there are estimated to be more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe, each containing between 10 and 100 billion stars, it’s a bit disappointing. In total, only four galaxies are visible from Earth with the naked eye, only half of which can be seen at once (two from each hemisphere). In the Northern Hemisphere, you can see the Milky Way and Andromeda (M31), while in the Southern Hemisphere you can see the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Some people with exceptional eyesight claim to be able to see three more: M33 in Triangulum, M81 in Ursa Major and M83 in Hydra, but it’s very hard to prove. The number of stars supposedly visible to the naked eye varies wildly, but everyone agrees that the total is substantially less than 10,000. Most amateur-astronomy computer software uses the same database: it lists 9,600 stars as ‘naked-eye visible’.

W. von 1 goldcrests 1, 2 goldfish, memory of 1 Gomeran Whistle 1, 2 Goodyear, Charles 1 gorillas and the appendix 1 beds of 1 Gorringe 1, 2 Gorringes, distinguished 1 Gould, Stephen Jay 1 Grant, Alexander 1 graphite, in pencils 1 Great Britain 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 accidents in 1 baseball invented in 1 cannibalism in 1 cave paintings in 1 celluloid first manufactured in 1 Celts in 1, 2 champagne invented in 1 chicken eaten in 1 dental hygiene in 1 depression in 1 earthquakes in 1 first modern Olympics held in 1 first Prime Minister 1 guillotine invented in 1 hokey-cokey, as dance 1 hottest chili from 1 invention of concentration camp by 1, 2 lightning in 1, 2 love of Marmite 1 most deadly war for 1 nettle eating in 1 obesity in 1 Panama hats in 1 Penny Post 1 popularity of CTM in 1 royal telemessages 1 rugby invented in 1 sleep clinics in 1 smallest bird from 1, 2, 3 smallest dog from 1, 2 turkeys in 1 VAT on chocolate biscuits 1 witches in 1 Great Fire of London 1 Great Pyramid 1 Great St Bernard Pass 1 Great Wall of China 1, Greater Rheas 1 Greece, ancient and modern carrots as aphrodisiacs 1 Haggis in 1 log cabins in 1 meaning of panthera 1 modern Olympics 1 naked wrestling 1 as our necessary precondition 1 perception of colours in 1 Periander’s Diolkos 1 Pheidippides’ run 1 protective effigies in 1 running-with-a-ball game 1 sound of dogs in 1 virgin-birth myths 1 Greenland 1, 2 Greenwood, John 1 grey matter 1 grey wolves 1 Grimm, Brothers 1 Guanches people 1 guano, as commodity 1 Guess, Nathaniel 1 Guillotin, Joseph Ignace 1 guillotine 1, 2 guinea pigs, uses for 1 Gutenberg, Beno 1 Guthrum 1 gypsum, uses for 1 Haakon VII, King of Norway 1 haggis, origins of 1 Hagiwara, Makato 1 hailstorms 1 hair, post-mortem growth of 1 and ruefulness 1 Haiti 1, 2, 3, 4 Hamilton, Emma 1, 2 Hancock, John 1 Hancock, Thomas 1 Hancock, Tony 1 hands (human) engineering of 1 fingers, and muscles 1 Hanks, Tom (seismologist) 1 Hardmuth, Josef 1 Hardy, Thomas (naval officer) 1 hares 1 Harington, John 1 Harris, Joel Chandler 1 Harteswood, Richard 1 Haselbacher, René 1 hashish 1 Hassan-i Sabbah 1 Hawaii 1, 2, 3 Hawker Hurricane 1 hawthorn, associations of 1 heliocentric orbit of earth, first claim of 1 helium 1 ‘hello’ as expression of surprise 1 first use of, on delegates’ badges 1 first written use of 1 Hendrix, Jimi 1 Henry II, King 1 Henry IV, King 1 Henry V, King 1 Henry VII, King 1 Henry VIII, King 1, 2 commitment problems 1 number of wives of 1 Henry the Black 1 Henry of Trastamara 1 Herero people 1 Herodotus 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Heron (Hero) 1, 2 Heywood, John 1 Hibbler, Winston 1 Hicks, Charles 1 Hill, Rowland 1, 2 Himalaya 1, 2 hippopotamuses 1 colour-blindness of 1 Washington’s false teeth 1, 2, 3 Hitler, Adolf, vegetarianism of 1 Hobson, Mary 1 hokey-cokey, origin of 1 Homer 1 Horsefield’s tortoise 1 horses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Horseshoe Bend, Battle of 1 Horus, virgin birth of 1 Houghton, Joel 1 Howard, Catherine 1 Howard, Luke 1 Hubble Space Telescope 1 Hubert, Robert 1 Hulagu Khan 1 human beings appendix, evolution of 1 bonding process in 1 brain colour of 1 constipation 1 dissection of 1 dolphins as smarter than 1 evolved from 1 hands, engineering of 1 lacking baculi 1 longevity in 1, 2 muscles of 1, 2 number of nostrils of 1 penisrelationship 1 percentage of brain used by 1 post-mortem hair growth 1 resembling running ostriches 1 senses of 1 see also diseases; man-made objects Hungary 1, 2 Hurricane Katrina 1 Huxley, Aldous 1 Ice Age, most recent 1, 2 ice cream, inventor of 1 Iceland 1, 2, 3, 4 igloos 1 iguanas 1 Immaculate Conception 1 India 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 bubonic plague in 1 concentration of tigers in 1 lucky numbers in 1 sound of frogs in 1 suicide rate in 1 Indonesia 1 infrared vision 1 Innocent III, Pope 1 insects ants 1 bees 1 bugs 1 centipede’s legs 1 cockcroaches 1 fruit flies 1 and Giant Sequoia bark 1 navigation of 1 in space 1 total number of 1 Inuit 1 Ionian Sea 1 Iranaeus of Lyon, Saint 1 Iraq 1, 2, 3 Ireland caid 1 Celts in 1, 2 Cromwell’s expedition to 1 goose eating 1 kilts invented in 1 Marco O’Polo from 1 saints from 1, 2 troops at Culloden 1 Wellington’s origins 1 whisky distilled in 1 iridium 1, 2 Irving, Washington 1 Isle of Man, curry in 1 Israel 1 Italy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 Izumi, Shigechiyo 1 Jackson, Andrew 1 Jaffa Cakes 1 jaguars 1 James I, King 1, 2 James II, King 1 Japan 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 invention of rickshaw 1 sound of frogs in 1 Java, tigers in 1 Jayden, as popular name 1 Jesus Christ 1, 2, 3 jobs, most dangerous 1 Johnson, Charles K. 1 Johnson, Samuel 1, 2 Jordemaine, Margery 1 Joyce, James 1 Judaism 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Jupiter 1, 2 Kagan, Lord 1 Kanamori, Hiroo 1 kangaroo, Aboriginal meaning of 1 Keller, Helen 1 Kennedy, Jimmy 1 Kenya 1 Western Highlands of 1 William Wallace from 1 Ketterle, Wolfgang 1 Kevin, Saint 1 Khan, Arif 1 killer, biggest 1 kilts, origins of 1 kings of England 1 Kirchoff, Gustav 1, 2 kiwi (bird) 1 Knight-Bruce, Rory 1 knighting, practice of 1 Knox (anatomist) 1 Koch, Robert 1 Korea 1 Korean War 1 Kouros, Yannis 1 krill 1 Kripke, Daniel 1 Krung Thep 1 Kuwait 1 Kyeser, Konrad 1 Laika (dog) 1 lakes, largest in Canada 1 Landseer, Edwin 1 Landy, John 1 Lapland 1, 2, 3 Laprise, Larry 1 Large and Small Magellanic Clouds 1 lateral line 1, 2 Lawrence, D. H. 1, 2 Le Carré, John 1 Leasor, James 1 Leeuwenhoek, Antonie van 1 lemmings, death of 1 Lennie, Peter 1 Lennon, John 1 Lennon, Julian 1 Leonardo da Vinci 1 leopards 1 Lesotho 1 Lesser Rheas 1 ‘let them eat cake’, said by 1 Lichfield, Lord 1 light, speed of 1 lightning and Giant Sequoias 1 vs asteroid, most likely to be killed by 1 lily of the valley 1 Lincoln, Abraham 1 Lind, James 1 Lindon, Richard 1 Linnaeus, Carl 1, 2 lion’s mane jellyfish 1 lions 1, 2, 3 Lisle, Claude Rouget de 1 Lithuania, suicide rate in 1, 2 Little Ice Age 1 Live Oak 1 Lloyd George, David 1 Lluyd, Edward 1 Locusta 1 log cabin, invention of 1 loofahs, origins of 1 Lorenz, Conrad 1 Loud, John J. 1 Louis, Antoine 1 Louis XIII, King of France 1 Louis XIV, King of France 1, 2 Louis XVI, King of France 1, 2 Lowell, Paul 1 Luckner, Count Nikolaus Graf von 1 lumberjacks 1 Lutyens, Mary 1 Lyly, John 1 McCarty, Catherine 1 Macintosh, Charles 1 Mackay, Charles 1 McVitie’s 1 Madagascar 1 Magellan, Ferdinand 1, 2 magnetoception 1 Malachy, Saint 1 malaria 1, 2, 3 Malaya 1 Malaysia 1 Malheur National Forest 1 Mandeville, Sir John 1 Manhattan Project 1 man-made objects largest 1 visibility from the moon of 1 Manson, Patrick 1 Maori 1, 2 marathons, reason for length of 1 Marie Antoinette, Queen of France 1, 2, 3, 4 Marie-Thérèse, Queen of France 1 Mark II computer 1 Markham, Gervase 1 Marmite 1 Marmontel, Jean François 1 marmots as killers 1 Vancouver Island 1 Mars 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 colour of 1 Marseillaise, La 1 Marshall, Barry 1 Martens, Conrad 1 Marx, Karl 1 Mary I, Queen 1 Mary, Virgin 1 Mason, Francis K. 1 materials, most common 1 mathematics equals sign 1 and neck ties 1 matter, states of 1 Maughan, Ron 1 Mauna Kea 1 Mauritius 1 May, gathering nuts in 1 May, Robert 1 Mayan civilization 1 Mee, Arthur 1 Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise 1 Melville, Herman 1 Mendeleev, Dmitri 1, 2 Menzies, Gavin 1 Mercator, Gerard 1 mercury 1 Mesopotamia 1 metals best conductor 1 Bunsen’s isolation of 1 detectors 1 liquid state of 1 Methuselah 1, 2 Meucci, Antonio 1 Mexico 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Michaud, Joy and Michael 1 Midgely, Thomas 1, 2 Milky Way 1, 2, 3 Millais, John Everett 1 Miranda, Carmen 1 Mitchell, Francis 1 Mithra, virgin birth of 1 Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS) 1 Mongolia 1 Mongols 1 Mons Olympus (Mars) 1 Montalembert, Count de 1 Moon artefacts visible from 1 cheese and 1 orbit of 1 size of 1 smell of 1 Moore, Clement Clarke 1 Morgan, T.


pages: 465 words: 103,303

The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery by George Johnson

Atul Gawande, Cepheid variable, Columbine, dark matter, discovery of DNA, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Gary Taubes, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, mouse model, Murray Gell-Mann, phenotype, profit motive, stem cell

Each morning we would depart with a group on hiking expeditions to glaciers, mountains, lakes, and rivers. Nancy looked so thin and frail to me, but she made it to the very end of every hike. One evening after dinner we walked out of the lodge and the stars were more brilliant than we had ever seen. Brilliant and strange. The constellations were unfamiliar, and a pair of dwarf galaxies stared down at us like two big eyes. It took a minute to realize that they were the Magellanic Clouds. Magellan had used them to navigate in the Southern Hemisphere, where the North Star is not visible. And it was within these starry nebulae that Leavitt discovered the Cepheids. Had she lived in this century, the statisticians tell us, her odds of getting stomach cancer would have been much lower. But it still probably would have killed her. With few symptoms at first, it is another of those cancers that is often not noticed until it has metastasized.

Love Canal low-fat diet, dubious benefits of lumps, discovery of, 2.1 lung cancer, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 5.1, 5.2, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 8.1, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 11.1 incidence of, 7.1, 11.1 radiation and, 11.1, 11.2 lungs, metastasis to, 1.1, 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2, epl.1 lymphangiogenesis, 4.1, 5.1 lymphatic system, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 4.1, 8.1, 11.1, epl.1 as metastatic pathway, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1 lymphedema, 11.1, 11.2 lymphocytes lymphomas, 1.1, 9.1 Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center macrophages, 9.1, 10.1 Madame Curie (movie) Magellanic Clouds mammograms screening debate over March of Dimes Maret, Nancy (author’s wife), 4.1, 4.2, 11.1 in aftermath of cancer, 13.1, epl.1 childlessness of healthy lifestyle of, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 4.1, 8.1 marriage ended by Maret, Nancy (author’s wife), cancer of diagnosis of, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 8.1, 9.1, 10.1, 12.1, epl.1 follow-ups to metastatic route of, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 6.1 treatment strategy for, 4.1, 6.1, 8.1, 11.1, 13.1 Massachusetts General Hospital, 12.1, 12.2 mass spectrometry mastectomies, 2.1, 12.1 Maxwell’s demons, epl.1, epl.2 Mayo Clinic McLaughlin, Thomas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1.1, 2.1, 9.1, 11.1, 12.1 Nancy’s trip to, 8.1, 9.1 mean, median vs.


Wireless by Charles Stross

anthropic principle, back-to-the-land, Benoit Mandelbrot, Buckminster Fuller, Cepheid variable, cognitive dissonance, colonial exploitation, cosmic microwave background, epigenetics, finite state, Georg Cantor, gravity well, hive mind, jitney, Khyber Pass, lifelogging, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, MITM: man-in-the-middle, peak oil, phenotype, Pluto: dwarf planet, security theater, sensible shoes, Turing machine, undersea cable

“Time?” Echoes Fox from Langley, sounding confused. “Time.” Sagan smiles in a vaguely disconnected way. “We’re nowhere near our original galactic neighborhood and whoever moved us here, they didn’t bend the laws of physics far enough to violate the speed limit. It takes light about 160,000 years to cross the distance between where we used to live, and our new stellar neighborhood, the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. Which we have fixed, incidentally, by measuring the distance to known Cepheid variables, once we were able to take into account the measurable blue shift of infalling light and the fact that some of them were changing frequency slowly and seem to have changed rather a lot. Our best estimate is eight hundred thousand years, plus or minus two hundred thousand. That’s about four times as long as our species has existed, gentlemen.

What everyone knows is that between zero three fifteen and twelve seconds and thirteen seconds Zulu time, on October second, ’sixty-two, all the clocks stopped, the satellites went away, the star map changed, nineteen airliners and forty-six ships in transit ended up in terminal trouble, and they found themselves transferred from a globe in the Milky Way galaxy to a disk which we figure is somewhere in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. Meanwhile the Milky Way galaxy—we assume that’s what it is—has changed visibly. Lots of metal-depleted stars, signs of macroscopic cosmic engineering, that sort of thing. The public explanation is that the visitors froze time, skinned the Earth, and plated it over the disk. Luckily they’re still bickering over whether the explanation is Minsky’s copying, uh, hypothesis, or that guy Moravec with his digital-simulation theory.”


What We Cannot Know: Explorations at the Edge of Knowledge by Marcus Du Sautoy

Albert Michelson, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Arthur Eddington, banking crisis, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Black Swan, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, Georg Cantor, Hans Lippershey, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Necker cube, Paul Erdős, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, technological singularity, Thales of Miletus, Turing test, wikimedia commons

She was employed at the time not as an astronomer but as a ‘computer’ at the Harvard College Observatory, extracting data from the photographic plates for 30 cents an hour. Women weren’t allowed to operate the telescopes. She’d been assigned the task of analysing stars that grew brighter and dimmer over a period of time. Curious to know if there was any pattern to the pulse of these stars, Leavitt focussed on a batch of stars that were located in the Small Magellanic Cloud and were therefore believed to be at similar distances from the Earth. When she plotted luminosity against the period of pulsation, she discovered a very clear pattern. The time it takes a Cepheid star to pulsate is directly correlated with its luminosity: the longer the period of pulsation, the brighter the star is shining. So to know how bright a Cepheid star really is, all you need to measure is the period of pulsation, something that is much easier to do than measuring missing light frequencies.

415–18; certainty and 364–6; consciousness and see consciousness; conjectures as lifeblood of 420; cracking of great unsolved problems 375–8; dice and see dice; God and see God; infinity and see infinity; limit of senses and 417–18; mathematical universe hypothesis (MUH) 297–8; proof and 6, 366–73, 377–8, 401, 405–6, 417; proves that certain things are beyond knowledge 369–73, 401, 405–6, 417; quantum physics and see quantum physics; science vs. 364–6; theorems see under individual theorem name; timeless nature of 297–8; unknowns in see under individual area of mathematics; ‘unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’ 298 see also individual area of mathematics Maxwell, James Clerk 34, 136, 142, 143, 419; Matter and Motion 47 May, Robert M. 51–3, 72; chaos theory and 48–54, 55, 56, 57, 72; ‘Simple Mathematical Models with Very Complicated Dynamics’ 48–51, 56 McCabe, Herbert 15, 181 McGurk effect 328 Mendeleev, Dmitri 89–90, 91, 106, 108, 116 Mercury 63–4, 190, 194 Méré, Chevalier de 24–5, 26 Mermin, David 154, 155 Messiaen, Olivier 305 MET office 46–7, 61–2 Michell, John 275 Michelson, Albert Abraham 10–11, 253, 254, 255, 275 microscopes 78–9, 88, 93, 126, 305, 307, 416 Milky Way 203, 204, 227 Millikan, Robert Andrews 142–3 mind-body problem 330–2 Minkowski, Hermann 261–2, 270 Mittag-Leffler, Gösta 39–41, 204, 399 Moon 20, 34, 37, 38, 189, 190, 198, 206, 250, 251, 267 Moore’s law 8, 281 Mora, Patricia 280 Morley, Edward 253, 254, 255, 275 Mount Wilson, California 105–6, 204 multiverse 227–35, 238, 242, 298, 382, 404–5 muon 104, 105, 106, 258–9 Museum of the History of Science 188 music 77, 78, 79, 80–1, 82, 85, 88, 89, 90, 101, 121, 122, 126, 127, 137, 138, 139, 140, 177, 191, 195, 308, 314, 369, 419 mysterianism 349–50, 351 National Physical Laboratory, London 252, 254 Nature 8, 48, 53 Navier–Stokes equations 34 Ne’eman, Yuval 115 Necker cube 321, 323, 328 Neddermeyer, Seth 104 negative curvature 210 negative numbers 371–2 Neptune 197, 227 neurons: ageing and 258, 259; C. elegans worm complete neuronal network published 4, 345, 349; consciousness and 5, 309, 311–14, 323–9, 340, 341, 342, 343–6, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 353, 359, 376–7; Jennifer Aniston neuron 4, 324–7, 347, 359; Ramón y Cajal discoveries 311–13, 348 neutrinos 105, 221, 407 neutron 79, 90, 95, 100–1, 103, 105, 106, 107, 110, 116, 119, 125, 126, 165, 166 New Scientist 2, 4 Newlands, John 90 Newton, Sir Isaac 5, 6, 28–9, 53, 86, 131, 141, 156, 168, 176, 179, 262, 272; calculus and 30–2, 87; dice and 35–6, 154; God and 71; gravity and 29, 30, 32, 33–4, 37, 38, 72, 88, 196, 278–9; laws of motion and 29, 32–7, 38, 67, 72, 78, 87–8, 97, 133, 143, 153, 154, 159, 278–9, 280; life of 29–30; Opticks 88, 134; Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica 29, 32–5, 88, 252, 257; planetary motion and 33–41, 72, 280; relativity and 257; space and time, view of absolute nature of 252, 253, 262; Theory of Everything and 35; theory of light 88, 134, 135, 141 Nishijima, Kazuhiko 109–10 Nobel Prize 5, 106, 143, 204, 236, 321 non-commutativity 164 novae 204 nuclear fusion 274 nucleons 107–8 number theory 378, 384–8, 401–2, 403, 404 observation, quantum physics and 148–58, 168–70, 173, 178 Occam’s razor 233 Old Babylonian Period 83 omega particle 115–16 ontology 70, 170, 177, 178, 179, 418 Oppenheimer, Robert 117 Oresme, Nicolas 190–1, 218, 235, 391–2, 393, 394 Oscar II of Norway and Sweden, King 37–8, 62 out-of-body experiences 328–30 Owen, Adrian 333–4 Pais, Abraham 109 Papplewick Pumping Station 137–8, 139 paradox of unknowability 413–14 parallax 200–1, 202 parallel postulate 378–80, 401 Paris, Jeff 388 Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank 307–8, 313–14 Pascal, Blaise 24–5, 26–8, 36; Pascal’s wager 26–8, 241, 242; Pensées 389 Penrose, Roger 277–8, 290, 291–6, 387 pentaquark 120, 124 Pepys, Samuel 35–6 perceptronium 356 Perelman, Grigori 375–6 periodic paths 38–9 periodic table 86–7, 89–92, 95, 97, 101, 103, 106, 116, 125, 274 Perrin, Jean Baptiste: Les Atomes 94 photoelectric effect 140–3, 147 photons 10, 108, 141, 147, 148, 149, 150, 155, 156, 163, 168–9, 207, 208, 220–1, 227–8, 284, 287, 291, 292 physics: limits of discoveries 10–11, 12, 20, 123, 405, 418; many worlds’ interpretation of 155–6; no mechanism to explain 230; tension between mathematics and 404–5; unification of general relativity and quantum physics 7, 168, 219, 220 see also under individual area of physics pions 106, 107, 108, 109, 110–11, 115, 118 Planck, Max: Planck constant 138–9, 141, 163, 407; Planck length 167–8, 407 Planck spacecraft 226 planets: detecting new 195–8, 200–1, 227; distances between 193–5; measuring time and 251, 259, 267, 269, 278–9, 280; modelling of future trajectories 63–4, 72; motion of 29, 33–41, 62–4, 72, 88, 193, 279, 280; multiverse and 231; music of the spheres and 81; new habitable 3; singularities and 280 Plato 81–2, 113, 188, 208–9, 304, 368, 373, 409–10, 412 Pleiades 20, 250 Plough or Big Dipper 190, 191, 213 Podolsky, Boris 172 Poincaré, Henri 4, 36–41, 42, 44, 62, 64, 375 Poisson, Siméon-Denis 34 Polaris star 188 Polkinghorne, John 69–70, 174–9, 240, 355 Popper, Karl 233, 239, 415 population dynamics 1–2, 48–51, 56, 62, 65, 176, 280–1 PORC conjecture 376–7, 388, 420 Preskill, John 289–90 prime numbers 8, 157, 404, 415 probability 21–2, 23–8, 35, 37, 60, 92, 94, 146–8, 153, 154, 155, 157, 158, 159, 162, 178, 308, 349, 403, 405, 408 proof: birth of idea 366–9; by contradiction 83–4, 243; certain knowledge and mistakes in mathematical 39–41, 377, 383–8, 402–3, 412–16; chance to establish more permanent state of knowledge and 6, 366–7; false 412–13 proprioception 416–17 proton 79, 90, 95, 98–9, 100, 101, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 116, 117, 119–20, 123, 125, 126, 166 Proxima Centauri 188, 201, 202 punctuated equilibria 61 Pythagoras 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 89, 117, 127, 206, 243, 255, 256, 262, 324, 325, 326, 359, 363, 370, 374 qualia 325, 350, 357 quantum physics 11, 12, 28, 69, 70, 104, 126, 127, 131, 132, 133, 143–58, 159–83, 219, 220, 228–9, 231, 241, 274, 284, 288, 289, 297, 338, 354, 355, 402, 407, 408–9; black holes and 274, 284, 288, 289, 355; chaos theory and see chaos theory; Copenhagen interpretation of 178; counterintuitive nature of 132, 159, 164, 284; density of electron and 126; double-slit light experiment 134–6, 143, 144–7, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152–3, 154, 157, 161–2, 163, 165, 166, 169, 170, 171, 173; electromagnetism, attempt to unify with 104; general relativity, unifying with theory of 7, 168, 219, 220; inflation and 229; language and 408–9; observation and 148–58, 168–70, 173, 178; particle nature of light and 88, 134–49; quantum entanglement 172; quantum fluctuations 182, 183, 228–9, 231, 288; quantum gravity 7, 168, 183; quantum microscopes 79; quantum tunnelling 165–6; quantum Zeno effect 150–1; radioactive uranium emission of radiation and 131–3, 143–4, 150, 151, 158, 159, 160, 166–7, 171–2, 173–4, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 183; repeating an experiment in 408; reversible laws of 284–5, 355; trusting the maths of 165; uncertainty principle and 133, 159–60, 162–3, 164, 165, 166–7, 168–70, 180, 181–3, 243, 266, 274–5, 288, 290; wave function 5, 146–9, 153–8, 165, 169, 173, 177, 178–9, 402 quark 3, 79, 116–21, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 175, 187, 298, 335, 407 quidditism 298 Rabi, Isidor 105 radioactivity 98–9, 107, 131, 132–3, 171, 173 Ramón y Cajal, Santiago 311–13, 348 randomness 70, 131, 133, 143–4, 153, 154–5, 171–2, 174, 230, 338 redshift 214–16, 220, 222, 224 Rees, Martin 418 Reiss, Diana 318 relativity, theories of 5, 6, 7–8, 12, 72, 105, 115, 141, 143, 168, 219, 220, 248, 252, 253–72, 273, 275, 277, 278, 281, 282, 285, 288, 291, 293, 296, 299, 359 religion 13–15, 68–71, 174–8, 179, 181, 235–40, 320, 348–9, 355, 393, 399, 401–2, 410, 411 see also God rhetoric, art of 368, 369 Riemann, Bernhard 261–2, 376, 377, 388, 402, 404, 413, 420 Robertson, Howard 163 Robinson, Julia 401 Rømer, Ole 199 Rosen, Nathan 172 Rosetta Stone 113 Rovelli, Carlo 300 Royal Academy of Sciences, Paris 199 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2–3 Royal Observatory 197 Royal Society 90, 326–7 Royal Swedish Academy of Science 39 Rufus of Ephesus 306 Rumsfeld, Donald 11 Rushdie, Salman: Midnight’s Children 247, 264 Russell, Bertrand 380–1, 412 Rutherford, Ernest 98, 99, 100, 119, 120 Saint Augustine 22, 296; City of God 391; Confessions 249 Sartre, Jean-Paul 337 Saturn 63, 64, 190, 196 Schopenhauer, Arthur 77, 78 Schrödinger, Erwin 5, 131, 132, 146, 154, 177 Schumacher, Heinrich Christian 392 science/scientific discovery: constantly evolving nature of 364–6; dominance of 1–2; exponential growth in 3–4, 8–9; laws of nature, search for ultimate 9; mathematics vs. 364–6; only appears to describe reality 418; questions that can never be resolved 9–13, 295, 347, 349–50, 353, 355–60, 405–6, 407–20; success rate of and production of true knowledge 416 Scientific American 2 Searle, John 338–9 self-recognition test, animals and 317–19 sense of self 317, 319–20, 331, 342, 343 senses: limit of 416–18; out-of-body experiences and 328–30, 416 Serber, Robert 117, 119 S4 (group of symmetries) 112 Shakespeare, William 219, 399 Shapely, Harlow 204 Shull, Clifford 165 Sigma baryons 107, 108, 109, 110, 115, 119 singularity 8–9, 219, 220, 238, 248, 278–82, 283, 284, 289, 290, 293, 294 61 Cygni 201, 202 sleep, consciousness and 315–16, 339–41, 342, 343, 344, 346 Small Magellanic Cloud 203 Socrates 412 space-time: black holes and 276–8, 283, 284, 285; God and 296–8; origin of concept 262–4; shape of 264–72, 275–8, 283; singularities and 283, 284, 293 special relativity, theory of 105, 141, 143, 248, 252, 253–64, 275, 296, 359 Sphinx observatory, Switzerland 213–14, 223 square number 392, 394 ‘squaring the circle’ 373–4 Stanford University 229, 401; Stanford Linear Accelerator Center 119 stars: Andromeda nebula 203, 204; Big Bang and 220; black holes and 274–7, 284; chemical composition of 10; collapse of 222, 275, 276, 277; Comte predicts we will never know constituents of 10, 202, 243, 347, 409; creation of a 274; curved space-time and 271–2; death of 222; expanding universe and 214–18, 220, 222–3, 224, 227; fusion of atoms in 274; general theory of relativity and 271, 272; luminous matter and 238; measuring distance/brightness of 202–5, 214–16; paper star globe 187–8, 190, 195, 200, 201, 225, 227, 244; red giant 63; redshift and 214–16, 220, 222, 224; shape of universe and 187–8, 208–9; size of universe/infinity and 187–8, 190–2, 202–7; speed of light and 253; stellar parallax 200–1, 202; supernova and 222; white dwarf 274–5 see also under individual star and constellation name stellar parallax 200–1, 202 Stoppard, Tom: Arcadia 19, 53 strange quark 117, 118, 119, 120, 121 strangeness 108, 109–11, 115–16 string theory 127, 168, 234 strong nuclear force 107, 108, 109–10 Strzalko, Jaroslaw 67 SU(3) (symmetrical object) 5, 111–12, 113, 114, 115, 116–17, 120, 125 SU(6) (symmetrical object) 121 Sun 188, 189, 190, 193, 196, 199–200, 201, 203, 275; black holes and 276, 277; as centre of universe 193, 227, 413; Cepheid stars and 203, 204; chemical composition of 10; creation of 274; curved space-time and 271; distance of Earth from 193–5, 201, 206; entropy and 287; gravity and creation of 274; mass of 34, 275; measuring time and 251, 253, 271; pattern of movement 20, 188, 227, 251, 253, 271; planets orbit of 176, 193–6, 227; red giant, evolution into 63; size of 189; speed of light and 198, 199–200, 201, 253; time measurement and 251, 253, 271; trigonometry and 189, 201 supernova 222, 275 symmetry 103, 110, 111–17, 120, 121, 125, 269–72, 273, 327, 342, 344, 374, 376 synesthesia 325–6 Taleb, Nassim: The Black Swan 12 Tartaglia, Niccolò Fontana 25 technology: brain studies and 306, 314, 329–30, 336; singularity 281; rate of change/growth in 8, 281 Tegmark, Max 297–8 telescope: Andromeda and 204; discovery of new planets and 3, 195–8; invention of 189, 190, 192, 193–5, 200, 296, 305, 416; measuring distance of planets and 193–5; name 193; neural 305, 314–16, 323; paper 322–3, 325–6, 328; speed of light and 198–9, 200; stellar parallax and 201; trigonometry as 189–90 telomeres 5 Templeton Foundation 236, 237 Templeton, Sir John/Templeton prize 235–6, 237 Thales of Miletus 366–7 ‘The Great Debate’, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 1920 203–4 theory of abduction 233 Theory of Everything 9, 34–5 thermal time hypothesis 300 thermodynamics, second law of 285–6, 287, 290, 293 Thomson, J.


pages: 186 words: 64,267

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Brownian motion, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking

I paid the specified penalty, which was a one-year subscription to Penthouse, to the outrage of Kip’s liberated wife. FIGURE 6.2 The brighter of the two stars near the center of the photograph is Cygnus X-l, which is thought to consist of a black hole and a normal star, orbiting around each other. We also now have evidence for several other black holes in systems like Cygnus X-l in our galaxy and in two neighboring galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The number of black holes, however, is almost certainly very much higher; in the long history of the universe, many stars must have burned all their nuclear fuel and have had to collapse. The number of black holes may well be greater even than the number of visible stars, which totals about a hundred thousand million in our galaxy alone. The extra gravitational attraction of such a large number of black holes could explain why our galaxy rotates at the rate it does: the mass of the visible stars is insufficient to account for this.


pages: 234 words: 69,808

Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

gravity well, Magellanic Cloud

In less than two hours, its direction of motion had swung through more than ninety degrees, and it had given a final, almost contemptuous proof of its total lack of interest in all the worlds whose peace of mind it had so rudely disturbed. It was dropping out of the Ecliptic, down into the southern sky, far below the plane in which all the planets move. Though that, surely, could not be its ultimate goal, it was aimed squarely at the Greater Magellanic Cloud, and the lonely gulfs beyond the Milky Way. CHAPTER FORTY-SIX - Interlude 'Come in,' said Commander Norton absentmindedly at the quiet knock on his door. 'Some news for you, Bill. I wanted to give it first, before the crew gets into the act. And anyway, it's my department.’ Norton still seemed far away. He was lying with his hands clasped under his head, eyes half shut, cabin light low - not really drowsing, but lost in some reverie or private dream.


pages: 301 words: 85,126

AIQ: How People and Machines Are Smarter Together by Nick Polson, James Scott

Air France Flight 447, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, Atul Gawande, autonomous vehicles, availability heuristic, basic income, Bayesian statistics, business cycle, Cepheid variable, Checklist Manifesto, cloud computing, combinatorial explosion, computer age, computer vision, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Charles Pickering, Elon Musk, epigenetics, Flash crash, Grace Hopper, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, index fund, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, late fees, low earth orbit, Lyft, Magellanic Cloud, mass incarceration, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Moravec's paradox, more computing power than Apollo, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, North Sea oil, p-value, pattern recognition, Pierre-Simon Laplace, ransomware, recommendation engine, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, speech recognition, statistical model, survivorship bias, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Uber for X, uber lyft, universal basic income, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, young professional

The oscillation in brightness of a pulsating star. This particular star completes a cycle from bright to dim to bright again every 5.4 days. Leavitt discovered that a pulsating star’s period was related to its brightness: brighter pulsating stars oscillate more slowly than dim ones, in a mathematically predictable way. By 1912, Leavitt had zeroed in on a group of 25 pulsating stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud.* Because these stars were all part of the same cluster, Leavitt felt safe in assuming that they were all about the same distance from Earth. Therefore, if a star seemed brighter, it actually was brighter at the source. For each star, she tabulated two data points. First, there was its period of pulsation, or how long the star took to complete one full cycle from bright to dim to bright again.


pages: 335 words: 95,280

The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far by Lawrence M. Krauss

Albert Einstein, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

On February 23, 1987, however, another event occurred that demonstrates a maxim I have found is almost universal: every time we open a new window on the universe, we are surprised. On that day a group of astronomers observed, in photographic plates obtained during the night, the closest exploding star (a supernova) seen in almost four hundred years. The star, about 160,000 light-years away, was in the Large Magellanic Cloud—a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way observable in the southern hemisphere. If our ideas about exploding stars are correct, most of the energy released should be in the form of neutrinos, despite that the visible light released is so great that supernovas are the brightest cosmic fireworks in the sky when they explode (at a rate of about one explosion per hundred years per galaxy). Rough estimates then suggested that the huge IMB (Irvine-Michigan-Brookhaven) and Kamiokande water detectors should see about twenty neutrino events.


pages: 340 words: 96,242

Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis

affirmative action, experimental subject, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics

He was dressed in a silk shirt covered over with a black leather vest gleaming with chrome studs and chains. She waited until he was leaving a class, and then walked up behind him. "One time," she said, "you took me up the mountain to see the stars. The sky over the school, it was very dark. You pointed out to me the glowing clouds, like a distant fire in the sky, and told me that it was a baby galaxy, the Magellanic Clouds, and it was so far away that we were seeing it as it had been thousands of years ago, and that if every star there had burned out, we would not know for a thousand years. Do you remember?" João did not turn around. "Yes," he said. "I remember." I thought you were going to kiss me, she thought. But you didn't. She didn't say it. "And the mountains," she said. "You took me into the mountains.


pages: 492 words: 141,544

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

artificial general intelligence, basic income, blockchain, Brownian motion, correlation does not imply causation, cryptocurrency, Deng Xiaoping, gig economy, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, income inequality, invisible hand, low earth orbit, Magellanic Cloud, megacity, precariat, Schrödinger's Cat, seigniorage, strong AI, Turing machine, universal basic income, zero-sum game

The horizontal sunlight that was always obtained here threw their shadows all the way across the room. He said enthusiastic things about the view in as genuine a tone as he could muster, and almost met their curious gazes. Crater sublime; starscape amazing. Fred had never visited Earth’s southern hemisphere, and now he nodded politely as his hosts pointed out the Southern Cross overhead, and a blob with a texture like the Milky Way’s, which they said was a Magellanic Cloud. A couple of points of light moving through the stars were apparently satellites in lunar polar orbits. A larger satellite, like a little oblong moon, brilliant on its sunward side and a velvet gray on its dark side, was an asteroid, his hosts told him, brought into lunar orbit for its carbonaceous chondrite. The moon lacked carbon, so chunks of this asteroid were being cut off and dropped to the surface in collisions as slow as could be arranged.


pages: 489 words: 148,885

Accelerando by Stross, Charles

business cycle, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, MITM: man-in-the-middle, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, South China Sea, stem cell, technological singularity, telepresence, The Chicago School, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, web of trust, Y2K, zero-sum game

The intelligence bloom that gnaws at Jupiter's moons with claws of molecular machinery won't stop until it runs out of dumb matter to convert into computronium. By the time it does, it will have as much brainpower as you'd get if you placed a planet with a population of six billion future-shocked primates in orbit around every star in the Milky Way galaxy. But right now, it's still stupid, having converted barely a percentage point of the mass of the solar system – it's a mere Magellanic Cloud civilization, infantile and unsubtle and still perilously close to its carbon-chemistry roots. It's hard for tapeworms living in warm intestinal mulch to wrap their thousand-neuron brains around whatever it is that the vastly more complex entities who host them are discussing, but one thing's sure – the owners have a lot of things going on, not all of them under conscious control. The churning of gastric secretions and the steady ventilation of lungs are incomprehensible to the simple brains of tapeworms, but they serve the purpose of keeping the humans alive and provide the environment the worms live in.


Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

active measures, cognitive dissonance, Magellanic Cloud

“The only form of intelligence in the Galaxy,” repeated Trevize slowly. “I agree. Yet we speak so much and so often of the Galaxy that it is all but impossible for us to see that this is not enough. The Galaxy is not the Universe. There are other galaxies.” Pelorat and Bliss stirred uneasily. Daneel listened with benign gravity, his hand slowly stroking Fallom’s hair. Trevize said, “Listen to me again. Just outside the Galaxy are the Magellanic Clouds, where no human ship has ever penetrated. Beyond that are other small galaxies, and not very far away is the giant Andromeda Galaxy, larger than our own. Beyond that are galaxies by the billions. “Our own Galaxy has developed only one species of an intelligence great enough to develop a technological society, but what do we know of the other galaxies? Ours may be atypical. In some of the others—perhaps even in all—there may be many competing intelligent species, struggling with each other, and each incomprehensible to us.


pages: 506 words: 167,034

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike Mullane

affirmative action, Berlin Wall, blue-collar work, dark matter, Donald Trump, Donner party, feminist movement, financial independence, invisible hand, Magellanic Cloud, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pepto Bismol, placebo effect, Potemkin village, publish or perish, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, space pen, Stephen Hawking, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent, your tax dollars at work

The sensation was so distracting I finally abandoned the mid-deck and floated upstairs. The view of the Earth’s horizon immediately eradicated any sense of the fall. The ocean underAtlantis was now the Pacific. The sun dropped and its terminator light painted a scattering of cumulus clouds in coral pink. In the darkness that followed I looked spaceward to the unfamiliar stars of the southern hemisphere. The Magellanic Clouds were visible as hazy smudges. A quarter moon rose. Seen through the thick part of the atmosphere, the orb was severely distorted, appearing boomerang in shape, an effect of the light-bending qualities of the air. The crescent tips were squeezed inward and the greater surface bulged outward. Only after rising above the atmosphere did the crescent appear normal. Then, it cast a spotlight of silver across the water.


pages: 699 words: 192,704

Heaven's Command (Pax Britannica) by Jan Morris

British Empire, Cape to Cairo, centralized clearinghouse, Corn Laws, European colonialism, Fellow of the Royal Society, Khartoum Gordon, Khyber Pass, land reform, land tenure, Livingstone, I presume, Magellanic Cloud, mass immigration, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, sceptred isle, Scramble for Africa, trade route

Pitsani was 4,400 feet up on the veld. The air was tingling, and was scented only by a faint dry smell of dust. In the daytime the sky was often banked tremendously with white rolling clouds, and the light was so clear that miles away across the plain one could see the distant slow movements of tribespeople with their cattle. At night the sky was tremendous with unfamiliar constellations, and smudged with the mysterious Magellanic Clouds, and through the silence crickets chafed and night-birds abruptly whooped. It was a place for simple romanticism, schoolboy thoughts of fate and infinity, glorious impulses and heady self-delusions. The commander of the force was not a soldier at all, but a well-known colonial physician, Dr Leander Starr Jameson. He was best known to the world as an intimate of Cecil Rhodes, who was now not only Premier of Cape Colony, but had created his own eponymous British colony, Rhodesia, north of the Transvaal.


pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Brownian motion, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, clean water, Copley Medal, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

But Betelgeuse is fifty thousand light-years away. Only half a dozen times in recorded history have supernovae been close enough to be visible to the naked eye. One was a blast in 1054 that created the Crab Nebula. Another, in 1604, made a star bright enough to be seen during the day for over three weeks. The most recent was in 1987, when a supernova flared in a zone of the cosmos known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, but that was only barely visible and only in the southern hemisphere—and it was a comfortably safe 169,000 light-years away. Supernovae are significant to us in one other decidedly central way. Without them we wouldn't be here. You will recall the cosmological conundrum with which we ended the first chapter—that the Big Bang created lots of light gases but no heavy elements. Those came later, but for a very long time nobody could figure out how they came later.


pages: 665 words: 207,115

Across Realtime by Vernor Vinge

fudge factor, gravity well, Isaac Newton, job automation, Magellanic Cloud, means of production, technological singularity, Vernor Vinge

For a long moment, Della didn't answer. Her personality shifted yet again. Expression drained from her face, and she seemed almost as cold as in their first meetings. "Intelligent life is a rare development. "I spent nine thousand years on this, spread across fifty million years of realtime. I averaged less than a twentieth light speed. But that was fast enough. I had time to visit the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Fornax System, besides our own galaxy. I had time to stop at tens of thousands of places, at astrophysical freaks and normal stars. I saw some strange things, mostly near deep gravity wells. Maybe it was engineering, but I couldn't prove it, even to myself. "I found that most slow-spinning stars have planets. About ten percent of these have an Earth-type planet. And almost all such planets have life.


pages: 1,234 words: 356,472

Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

carbon-based life, clean water, corporate governance, Magellanic Cloud, megacity, nuclear winter, plutocrats, Plutocrats, random walk, rolodex, Rubik’s Cube, stem cell, the scientific method, trade route, urban sprawl

But we do believe that the sterilization of Far Away was an unfortunate side effect. The flare was only triggered to act as the power source for the message.” “That’s one hell of a side effect.” “You have to take the alien viewpoint. They triggered the flare to communicate across the entire galaxy. Whatever machine manipulated the star into flaring then went on to modify the emission into a coherent radio signal powerful enough to be detected as far away as the Magellanic Clouds. We humans certainly picked it up easily enough, you barely needed a dish when the signal reached Damaran, let alone the SETI scanners they were using back then.” “But nobody knows what they were saying,” Wilson observed. “We’ve had a hundred and eighty years to decode the signal, and I’m not aware of any breakthrough yet. They must have been broadcasting back to their own home planet.” “That’s certainly one theory proposed by the Institute, Captain.