Pages to Go Before I Sleep

Attendees (including me) outside the Kepler control room at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Kevin Baird; click for the entire photo set.

My radio silence over here has a good reason: I spent last weekend in Boulder, Colorado, at a workshop at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). I’ll have a full write-up about the event soon (possibly even tomorrow), but in the meantime please check out this post from AstroBob (AKA Bob King) and a nice Twitter-based roundup from Jason Davis, two other participants.

I have not been idle, nevertheless:

  • As you no doubt know already, Sally Ride—the first American woman in space, and only the third woman astronaut worldwide—passed away on Monday. Here’s a brief eulogy I wrote for her at Double X Science, along with extensive links to other sites commemorating her life and important contributions. Feel free to leave your own reminiscences in the comments here or over at Double X.
  • Spiral galaxies are common in the modern Universe, but they appear to be very rare in the early days. Astronomers have identified the earliest known spiral galaxy: over 10 billion light-years away! (Ars Technica)
  • If you took chemistry in school (as I did), you performed chemical reactions either at room temperature or over a heat source (a Bunsen burner or hot plate). The reactions involved huge numbers of atoms or molecules, and we didn’t worry much about the microscopic details. Now researchers have made a single atom react with a single ion, by manipulating their quantum states. (Ars Technica)
  • On a similar note, we learned about several basic types of molecular bonds, which all involve electrons. Chemists have calculated a way to make molecules magnetically (how alliterative!), though the field strengths involved only exist near neutron stars or white dwarfs. (Ars Technica)
  • If you stand on quicksand, you sink and become mired. If you run across quicksand, it solidifies under your feet. A new set of experiments explain why: the material actually forms a solid plug beneath the point of impact. The story got more fun when the world’s expert on pygmy mammoths asked me a question about ketchup. (Ars Technica)

Finally, if you haven’t submitted your post to me for the Dark Energy Carnival of Cosmology, please do so by tomorrow!


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