While having lunch with colleagues at Los Alamos Labs one day in 1950, Enrico Fermi, one of the most astute physicists of the 20th century, posed a fascinating question. Fermi pointed out that since the universe contains countless trillions of stars, and if even a tiny fraction of these stars had planets that harbored intelligent civilizations, then there must be thousands or millions of civilizations capable of interstellar communications and perhaps even space travel. “So where are they?”, wondered Fermi. Since there are no signs of such civilizations, they must not exist. This is known as Fermi’s Paradox, and it’s bedeviled astronomers and amateur philosophers ever since.
Wondering how it all began? Here’s a short video taking you through the basics of the beginning of the universe. Narrated by CERN physicist Tom Whyntie, it takes a particle physicist’s point of view of cosmology. And it reminds you that all the protons and neutrons in your body were present in the minutes and seconds after the Big Bang, and they’ve been around every since…
There was big news for astronomers last week and for the rest of us who are keen to know more about the nature of our universe. Researchers at the European Space Agency released a new image compiled by the Planck space telescope of the earliest universe, and it’s the most detailed (and perhaps beautiful) image of the early universe ever taken.
Here’s a moving short video by filmmaker Mischa Rozema. The video portrays the end of our world… the expansion of our Sun into a cool but immensely large red giant star that will consume the inner planets Mercury and Venus, and possibly our own planet as a tiny spacecraft– Voyager 1– continues on its perpetual journey through interstellar space carrying a message from mankind.
I’ve always been unsettled by the idea of reincarnation. While I’m at the top of the food chain now, I have a suspicion that, with my many karmic transgressions, I may not be so lucky next time around. After I die, what if I come back as a swamp rat? Or a garden slug? Or worse yet… a dung beetle? It’s not an appealing thought.
Well it turns out dung beetles, at least, might have more going for them than I thought. A new study by Swedish biologist suggests that a species of South African dung beetle navigates on moonless nights with the help of the spectacular southern Milky Way.