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Posts Tagged 'Science Cafe'

So This Physicist Walked Into a Bar….

My new hat, courtesy of Science Cafe/Science Pub.

Last night, I gave a talk at Science Pub RVA, part of NOVA ScienceNOW‘s initiative to bring scientists and the public together in an informal setting. Many thanks to Cynthia Gibbs, the Richmond organizer, for inviting me to speak and for getting this great event going!

The topic for my presentation was black holes—specifically, the real black holes astronomers have studied over the decades. While I’ve written about the subject before (and black holes were the subject of a popular planetarium show at my old job), I’ve never given a public talk specifically about them. However, I love black holes. Did I mention I’ve written about them before?

Consider this post a mild recap of my talk, without the technical difficulties (such as the power going out in the building several times before the presentation began), but with all the slides and bonus links. This is a very graphics-intensive post, in other words, so please be patient while everything loads!

Black Holes Don’t Suck

(Yes, I’ve used that joke before. So sue me.)

Discussions of black holes fall into two distinct categories. The first is the sexy string theory/quantum gravity/Stephen Hawking category, all about time warps, wormholes, extra dimensions, Bekenstein entropy, and baby universes; the second discusses the real black holes discovered in our galaxy and beyond. While the sexy stuff is a lot of fun to talk about, that’s not what I discussed: it’s speculative, and at the present time impossible to test. (Some of it by its very nature is impossible to test, since we can’t get access to the region inside a black hole. More on that shortly.) However, I think real astronomical black holes are just as interesting, and over the last several decades astronomers have realized how important they are in shaping the galaxies they inhabit. Continue reading ‘So This Physicist Walked Into a Bar….’

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