Summary: Astronomy Cast offers you a fact based journey through the cosmos. Each week Fraser Cain (Universe Today) and Dr. Pamela Gay (SIUE / Slacker Astronomy) take on topics ranging from the nearby planets to ubiquitous dark matter.
One of the biggest, most basic questions you can ask is: “why is there something and not nothing?” The reality is that we don’t know the answer, we might never know the answer. Today we’ll investigate this mystery, recently covered by the physicist Lawrence Krauss in his book of the same name.
Every year, it’s the same dilemma: what gift should you get for the super space nerd in the family? And if someone has a budding interest in space and astronomy, what can you do to feed their hunger for knowledge? Today we’ll talk telescopes, books and planispheres. Everything you need to avoid a holiday gift disaster.
In the last few episodes, we’ve been talking about the standard model of physics, explaining what everything is made up of. But the reality is that we probably don’t know a fraction of how everything is put together. This week we’re going to talk about baryons, the particles made up of quarks. The most famous ones are the proton and the neutron, but that’s just the tip of the baryonic iceberg. And then we’re going to talk about where the standard model ends, and what’s next in particle physics.
All fundamental particles are either fermions or bosons. Last week we talked about quarks, which are fermions. This week we’ll talk about bosons, including the famous Higgs boson, recently confirmed by the Large Hadron Collider.
Physicists are getting a handle on the structure of the Universe, how everything is made of something else. Molecules are made of atoms, atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons, etc. Even smaller than that are the quarks and the leptons, which seem to be the basic building blocks of all matter.
Humans, cars and planets are made of molecules. And molecules are made of atoms. Atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. What are they made of? This is the standard model of particle physics, which explains how everything is put together and the forces that mediate all those particles.
Have you ever been doing thermodynamics in a closed system and noticed that there’s a finite number of ways that things can be arranged, and they tend towards disorder? Of course you have, we all have. That’s entropy. And here in our Universe, entropy is on the rise. Let’s learn about entropy in its specific, thermodynamic ways, and then figure out what this means for the future of the Universe.
I’m not saying it’s aliens, but it’s aliens. Actually, it’s almost certainly not aliens, or a wormhole, or a multiverse. When scientists discover something unusual, they make guesses about what’s happening. But Occam’s Razor encourages us to consider the probabilities of different events before making any concrete predictions.
While Pamela and Fraser were at Ohio State University for a symposium in October, they caught up with Paul M. Sutter from Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, who is a visiting scholar at the OSU Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics. His specialty is cosmic voids. Paul also hosts the podcast “Ask a Spaceman.”
This week astronomers announced an unusual transit signal from another star. Although it’s most likely a natural phenomenon, one remote possibility is that this is some kind of alien megastructure. Freeman Dyson and others have considered this idea for decades. Today we’ll talk about the kinds of structures that aliens might want to build.
Have you heard the big news? NASA has reported that Mark Watney is alive and well on the surface of Mars. No, wait, they’ve reported that there’s water on Mars. Didn’t they already report this? Today we’ll update you on the latest discovery and what this means for the search for life on Mars.
The atmosphere keeps us alive and breathing, but it really sucks for astronomy. Fortunately, humanity has built and launched space telescopes that get above the pesky atmosphere, where the skies are really clear. Let’s take a look at the past, current and future of orbital observation.
Taking pictures of distant worlds is great and all, but the best science happens with boots on the ground. Or in this case... wheels. This week we'll talk all about robotic rovers and the places they rove.
The gravity of the Earth is a tough thing to escape, but breaking free from the gravity of the Sun is on a whole other level. But humans have achieved this amazing accomplishment, and right now there are several spacecraft leaving the Solar System and never coming back.
The coldest possible theoretical temperature is Absolute Zero, this is the point at which no further energy can be extracted from a system. How are physicists working to get as close as possible to this extreme cold?