Space Is an Ecosystem Like Any Other. And It’s in Peril.

Artificial satellites, thousands of which now clutter low Earth orbit, have essentially become an invasive species. BY THOMAS LEWTON OUTER SPACE isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be … Continue reading Space Is an Ecosystem Like Any Other. And It’s in Peril.

Where did the Universe come from?

To answer any physical question, you must ask the Universe itself. But what happens when the answers aren’t around anymore? KEY TAKEAWAYS Perhaps the biggest question of all that we’re capable of conceiving is about our ultimate origins: where did all this come from?  From examining the Universe itself, we can uncover the answer to many aspects of this question: where the planets, stars, elements, atoms, and even the Big Bang came from.  But the farther back we go, we find we run into an inevitable problem: the Universe cannot provide answers beyond a certain point. What we make of … Continue reading Where did the Universe come from?

My Dad Once Told Me the World Was 100 Years Old

His teasing provoked me to understand the origins of time. BY SUBODH PATIL How far does time go back? It’s a simple enough question that a child could have the temerity to ask. Any attempt at a meaningful answer, however, leads us headfirst into the limits of understanding what time even is. At the most solipsistic level, it only goes as far back as our earliest memories. Before that, the starting point of our sentience appears to be shrouded in oblivion, or perhaps a fragmented haze of impressions. At the most objective level, this may not be such an inaccurate … Continue reading My Dad Once Told Me the World Was 100 Years Old

Laws of Logic Lead to New Restrictions on the Big Bang

Patterns in the ever-expanding arrangement of galaxies might reveal secrets of the universe’s first moments. Dave Whyte for Quanta Magazine Physicists are translating commonsense principles into strict mathematical constraints on how our universe must have behaved at the beginning of time. by Charlie Wood Staff Writer For over 20 years, physicists have had reason to feel envious of certain fictional fish: specifically, the fish inhabiting the fantastic space of M.C. Escher’s Circle Limit III woodcut, which shrink to points as they approach the circular boundary of their ocean world. If only our universe had the same warped shape, theorists lament, they might … Continue reading Laws of Logic Lead to New Restrictions on the Big Bang

The search for alien tech

There’s a new plan to find extraterrestrial civilisations by the way they live. But if we can see them, can they see us? Corey S Powell is a science editor and journalist. He has been editor at Discover, Scientific American and Aeon. He is the author of God in the Equation (2003), and co-author of Undeniable (2014), Unstoppable (2016) and Everything All at Once (2017) with Bill Nye, with whom he also makes the Science Rules! podcast. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.  Edited byPam Weintraub Are we alone in the Universe? And if not, should we be excited – or afraid? These questions are as immediate as the latest Netflix hit … Continue reading The search for alien tech

Why simplicity works

Does the existence of a multiverse hold the key for why nature’s laws seem so simple? Johnjoe McFadden is professor of molecular genetics at the University of Surrey in the UK. His books include Quantum Evolution (2011); Human Nature: Fact and Fiction (2006); Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology (2014), co-authored with Jim Al-Khalili; and Life Is Simple (2021). Edited by Sally Davies It’s May 1964 and, on a low hillside in New Jersey, the physicists Robert Woodrow Wilson and Arno Allan Penzias are listening in on the Universe. They are standing beneath what looks like a gargantuan ear trumpet attached to a … Continue reading Why simplicity works

Harvard Scientist Suggests That Our Universe Was Created in a Laboratory

Avi Loeb and the Great Unknown. The Harvard professor who thinks an alien probe visited our star system in 2017 has a message for the academic community. by VICTOR TANGERMANN It was an otherwise non-notable day in October 2017 when Canadian astronomer Robert Weryk made an astonishing discovery. Thanks to data from the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii, Weryk spotted an unusual object, oblong and approximately the size of a football field, screaming through the solar system at 196,000 miles per hour. Strangest of all was that it seemed to be accelerating slightly, pushed by … Continue reading Harvard Scientist Suggests That Our Universe Was Created in a Laboratory

Surprise: the Big Bang isn’t the beginning of the universe anymore

We used to think the Big Bang meant the universe began from a singularity. Nearly 100 years later, we’re not so sure. KEY TAKEAWAYS The Big Bang teaches us that our expanding, cooling universe used to be younger, denser, and hotter in the past.  However, extrapolating all the way back to a singularity leads to predictions that disagree with what we observe.  Instead, cosmic inflation preceded and set up the Big Bang, changing our cosmic origin story forever. by Ethan Siegel Where did all this come from? In every direction we care to observe, we find stars, galaxies, clouds of … Continue reading Surprise: the Big Bang isn’t the beginning of the universe anymore

Is the Universe Open-Ended?

An intriguing proposal about what makes reality tick under the surface. BY CALEB SCHARF One of my favorite albeit heavily paraphrased quotes from Albert Einstein is his assertion that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. (What he actually said, in his 1936 work “Physics and Reality,” is more longwinded, and includes a digression into Immanuel Kant and the meaning of “comprehensibility,” but he does write “… the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”) In truth, this statement holds back a little. The greater mystery is that the universe is actually capable of … Continue reading Is the Universe Open-Ended?

Let’s talk about sex — in space

It’s naturally part of every human space exploration but remains taboo. Here’s what we do and don’t know about cosmic sex. Author Marie Sina German astronaut Matthias Maurer breezes through interviews, rarely missing a beat when he answers journalists’ questions around his upcoming six-month trip to the International Space Station (ISS). But one topic throws even Maurer off momentarily: sex drive in space.  “We haven’t talked about this, because it’s a professional environment,” he replied to DW’s question on whether astronauts exchange insights on how to handle their desires.  Thanks to commercial space flights, more people are entering the cosmos than ever … Continue reading Let’s talk about sex — in space