The Race to Colonize Mars Perpetuates a Dangerous Religion

We can learn about the universe without conquering it. BY BRIAN GALLAGHER My alarm rang me awake at 6:25 AM, and I drowsily yet eagerly tapped my way to YouTube, blinking my bleary eyes to see clearly. There was SpaceX’s livestream of its latest spectacle: the orbital flight test of its gargantuan new spacecraft and rocket, Starship, designed to take dozens humans or heavy cargo to the moon, Mars, and the rest of the solar system. Millions had tuned in to watch it, excited by the uncertainty of what would happen.  I dropped in with the launch countdown at … three … Continue reading The Race to Colonize Mars Perpetuates a Dangerous Religion

Life Need Not Ever End

Camden Colwell New interpretations of the laws of thermodynamics suggest the infamous “heat death” hypothesis, which foretells the end of all life and organization in the universe, might not hold. BY BOBBY AZARIAN Bobby Azarian is a cognitive neuroscientist, a science journalist and the author of the book “The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness and Cosmic Complexity.” Perhaps the most depressing scientific idea that has ever been put forth is the infamous “heat death hypothesis.” It is a theory about the future of the universe based on the second law of thermodynamics, which in … Continue reading Life Need Not Ever End

Should People Live on the Moon?

BY BRIAN GALLAGHER One question for Joseph Silk, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Back to the Moon: The Next Giant Leap for Humankind. Should people live on the moon? Why not? We have to start somewhere if we ever want to leave Earth. And the only realistic place to start is the moon. It’s going to be for a minority, right? For explorers, for people exploiting the moon for commercial reasons, for scientists. They will be living on the moon within the next century. And it will be a starting point to go elsewhere. It’s a much … Continue reading Should People Live on the Moon?

How long until all life on Earth dies?

We have less time than you might think. KEY TAKEAWAYS Adam Frank The end is near. This is often prophesied, and if you are thinking on astronomical time scales, it really is true.  It is curious how most of us would rather not think about our own mortality, but we do have a fascination with cataclysmic endings on the cosmic scale. There is something a bit delightful in considering an inevitable apocalypse. That’s why today we want to consider how the Earth and its life will end. The Sun cannot win forever Earth’s doomsday clock started ticking before the planet … Continue reading How long until all life on Earth dies?

The Sun has a new way to kill us

Beware nasty space weather. KEY TAKEAWAYS The Sun has been waiting to kill us for a long time. In our high-tech era, it has a whole new tool it can use to strike us.  When conditions are right, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), magnetic loops drenched in hot plasma, can be fired toward Earth. This has happened before, and we refer to them now as Carrington Events.  If a Carrington Event happened today, most experts agree it would fry our power, GPS, and communication systems, leaving us cold, in the dark, and alone. by Adam Frank Our ancestors worshiped the Sun as … Continue reading The Sun has a new way to kill us

Time isn’t simply just another dimension

We live in a four-dimensional Universe, where matter and energy curve the fabric of spacetime. But time sure is different from space! KEY TAKEAWAYS According to Einstein’s General Relativity, matter and energy curve the fabric of spacetime, and that curved spacetime determines the motion of matter and energy.  But while spacetime itself is four dimensional, it can be decomposed into three spatial dimensions and one time dimension.  Even though we understand the mathematics governing them magnificently, time has some fundamental differences from every other dimension; here’s what everyone should know. by Ethan Siegel Here’s a question that most of us … Continue reading Time isn’t simply just another dimension

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