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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Category: Universe

Day 340: Post-Halloween Brain Bust

It’s the day after Halloween. You probably spent last night gorging on candy, peeling sticky wrappers off of your adorably dressed kids, or – if you’re like me – you worked late, came home, put on sweatpants and watched Contact.

Either way, you’re in recovery mode. So what better way to get the ol’ mind moving again than by blowing it?

Aware of my nearly obsessive admiration of Neil deGrasse Tyson (who recently tweeted, “I love the smell of the universe in the morning.”) and longtime dream to meet Carl Sagan in some kind of heaven-like afterlife, one of my coworkers recently sent me this Radiolab Podcast (thanks, Brad).

In it, theoretical physicist Brian Greene uses statistics to make the case that there’s likely another you out there, doing the same thing you’re doing now. Not only that, there are an infinite number of other yous, doing the same thing or only slightly different things than you’re doing now. Or, doing the same thing or only slightly different things, with slightly different thoughts than you have now.

If everything that exists and can exist does exist, the odds simply point to the fact that there are more yous (I just paraphrased an enormous concept… don’t take my word for it – just listen to the Podcast).

The later part of this interview moves beyond the real universe (or universes) and posits that it’s more likely we actually live in a simulated universe as opposed to a real, natural one. Like, a universe manufactured by something or someone with a good grasp of technology.


For me, the most interesting part of these concepts isn’t that they might be true, it’s that we can imagine them to be true. We’re equipped with this amazing capacity to be curious and eager and hungry to understand. We can conceptualize realities that are in direct conflict with our actual concepts of reality. It’s oxymoronic in the best way.

“To me, the most wonderous thing about science – and physics in particular – is the fact that through the power of thought and calculation and observation, you can be led to conclusions vastly at odds with what you would think based upon experience. I don’t think there’s anything more wonderous than that moment when you think the world is one way and your equations, your math, your ideas, your theories begin to convince you that is it another way.” – Brian Greene

Check it out. It’s 50 minutes long, but you’ve got time.

comaImage of the Coma cluster of galaxies from Nasa.gov

Day 117: As the World Turns

Sometimes, when you’re running from one thing to the next and checking off to-do items only to make room for more, it’s nice to sit back, relax and watch the world turn.

From outer space.

Thank goodness for the International Space Station. Yesterday, I touted Chris Hadfield’s photos from the ISS; today, a couple of my co-workers clued me into some amazing (incredible!) ISS videography.

It looks like the stuff of Hollywood special effects, but it’s real footage of the ISS gliding smoothly around the Earth.

This first one is even in real time. It’s a night flight from January 30, 2012, running from northern Mexico to northwest New Brunswick. I can spot my city. Can you spot yours?

And this one is a soothing five-minute time-lapse of multiple different passes. The Northern Lights, bright electric flashes of thunderstorms, deserts, cityscapes, shooting stars (if you can peel your eyes away from Earth for long enough), sweeping masses of clouds, islands, fires, mountains, airports… it’s gorgeous, soothing and might choke you up a little bit.

Day 116: Pretty Planet

I’ve shared Chris Hadfield’s photos before, and I’m sharing a few others today. On this bitter 5ºF morning in the Midwest, it’s been lovely to put on a warm sweater, clasp my hands around a cup of tea and consider the awesomeness of Earth.

Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut orbiting the Earth relatively lowly on the International Space Station. If you follow him on Twitter, you can see almost daily pictures of our beautiful planet from the sky.

Here’s an image of visible fault lines in South Africa:

South Africa fault lines

And here is the Mexican Colima volcano, smoking gracefully:

Mexican Colima volcano

And of course, our gorgeous moon:


All photos by Chris Hadfield.

Day 80: Starstuff

During one of the next 322 days, I will write a thorough post in honor of one of my favorite scientists, the brilliant and passionate late astronomer, Carl Sagan.

For today, please enjoy the knowledge that “we are made of starstuff.”

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”
– Carl Sagan

The glowing cloud Sharpless 2-296, part of the Seagull Nebula

Day 77: Two Things

Just two things to say today:

1. If I had known so many of you were going to read Dating Dancers, I might have spruced it up with some pictures of ballet shoes and old T-shirts. Lesson learned. Thank you for reading!

2. The Earth is beautiful. Both NASA and Wired Science have collections of some gorgeous spacey photos, but I recently found Chris Hadfield’s Twitter feed and am hooked. He’s a Canadian astronaut living aboard the International Space Station. The relatively low orbit of the space station enables him to see Earth on a global scale (literally) but still pick up on the details of changing climates, cities and landmarks. He shares his photos every day. If you’re a Twitterer (Tweeter? Twit?), you may want to check him out.

Australian outbackNope—this is not a Gerhard Richter painting. It’s the Australian outback from space.