interested in keeping up with astrophysics discoveries?

this is the place

note:  for Nature and Science published articles,
original articles can be accessed if you are using an NCSSM (or university) IP address;
links provided to these articles are only abstracts

(feedback, questions, submission suggestions are welcome at

solar system

stellar physics


galaxies & cosmology

particle & quantum


cultural literacy


late October 2013

rare hybrid solar eclipse on
Sunday, November 3

(Earth & Sky)
in US, only east-coast viewers
get a glimpse,
at sunrise & just after

in Durham, sunrise is 6:43 am;
partial eclipse ends at 7:08 am;
(remember this is the 1st day of
28% of the sun's diameter
will be covered at sunrise

similar eclipse timings/predictions
for other US cities

how to find comet ISON:
(it still requires a telescope;
on 10/31/13 it was m = 8.5,
about as bright as Neptune...
and brightening by about
0.1 magnitude per day....
binoculars in a dark sky should
work by the 2nd week of November?)

live finding chart & magnitude

finding chart for late October

finding chart for all of 2013

TV135, one of those
asteroids with a 1-in-10,000
chance of hitting Earth

(Sky & Telescope)
in 2032

Friday's (Oct. 18) penumbral eclipse
of the moon
(Scientific American)
and why you'll not notice it

Where did the Moon come from?
Impact theory gets whacked

How we figured out the solar system
(Scientific American)
a special rehash

Huge meteorite pulled from
Russian lake

(Sky and Telescope)
from last February's
Chelyabinsk encounter

Cosmos seeded with heavy
elements during its first
4 billion years

Symmetry commentary
uniform distribution of
metals across
cluster of galaxies
implies early fusion

free downloadable e-book
on black holes

(Sky and Telescope)

Kepler 78b,
an Earth-like planet,
but infernally hot
Sky and Telescope link
NY Times link
Nature link
Earth-like density implies a
composition of iron and rock

15% of sun-like stars
have Earth-like
(size,mass) planets

(Astrophysical Journal)

Kepler satellite finds
solar system in which
planetary orbits are tilted
45 degrees to star's equator

first system discovered
with significant tilt

Most distant confirmed galaxy
(with an unexpectedly high
star-formation rate)

z = 7.51,
born 700 MY after the Bang....
are we finally seeing into
the past, before the
universe's reionization?
Nature article

Milky Way's supermassive
black hole has acted up
twice in last few centuries

x-ray light echoes off
molecular clouds allow
visions of the recent past

Most distant gravitational lens
presents early universe mystery
why are there so many small

The Formation History of
Ultra-Faint Dwarf Galaxies

including 12 recently-discovered
companions of the Milky Way
Scientific American commentary
Local Group is now up to
65+ members

Black holes shrink but endure?
paper claims that
black holes do NOT evaporate...
contradicting 40-year-old
predictions of Stephen Hawking

first results of LUX announced
LUX has detected NO dark matter
(NY Times)
listen to live seminar
from South Dakota

(10 am, 10/30)
results in print
contradict results of other
recent experiments

how LUX works
Scientific American commentary

update on the black hole
firewall paradox

(Scientific American)
new Phys Rev Letters article
strengthens argument that physics
breaks down at the event horizon
(as opposed to the long-thought

LUX (xenon detector
searching for dark matter)
to release latest results
at end of October


null result in latest neutrino-less
(double) beta decay results

still no evidence that
neutrinos are their own antiparticles

The Supercollider that never was
(Scientific American)
$2.4 billion spent,
tunnels drilled,
physics careers lost....
and an inkling to come of the US's
diminishing leadership in science?


sober reflections on the JFK
assassination 50 years ago

(New Yorker)


latest Snowden leak
on Project MUSCULAR:

NSA has secretly infiltrated
Google, Yahoo data centers

(Washington Post)
Google, Yahoo furious
NSA retracts its initial denial;
GCHQ has no comment

Google joins ALEC
from "don't do evil" to
"let's do evil"?
(in case you've forgotten,
ALEC wants tax repeal
for the wealthy, an end to
renewable energy sources,
voter ID laws, etc)

A primer on Elliptic
Curve Cryptography



Why the 1% should pay
an 80% tax rate


an NC Republican chairman
on The Daily Show this week:
NC Voter ID law was intended to "kick Democrats in the butt", to go after college students
 and "lazy blacks who want
the government to
give them everything."
(Raleigh N&O)
as if we didn't already know?

post-shutdown thoughts

from abroad

the US government shutdown:
a view from abroad

The rottenness of modern Washington makes outsiders gasp."

Republicans need to read
2012 or Never again
(and again, and again)
(NY Magazine)
an accurate prediction of
their present predicament,
from 1.5 years ago

from the conservatives:

Against Despair
(National Review)

from the liberals"

Make'  Em Pay
(NY Times)


'Selective' colleges failing
to attract talented poor students

(NY Times)

The key to school success:
relentless focus, constant
teacher development

(NY Times, Raleigh N&O)

US adults fare poorly
in math, technology,
and literacy

(NY Times)
why is this a surprise,
since our pre-college
fare just as poorly??

Poor children
are now the majority in US public
schools in the South & West

(Washington Post)
NC included

Inequality Is a Choice
(NY Times)
Income inequality results
more from political decisions than economic forces

miscellaneous physics

how light can violate
Newton's 3rd law

(New Scientist)

the physics of, ummm,

(New Scientist)
why 21 seconds?

early October 2013

guide to the visible planets
for October

(Earth & Sky)

a nice time see Uranus
finding chart for Uranus & Neptune
(Sky and Telescope)

Neptune's tiny moon Naiad
makes its first appearance
in 15 years

(New Scientist)
too small and too close to
Neptune, except for Hubble

Pluto's Eternal Atmosphere
(Scientific American)
it never freezes out and
it's now thicker than ever before
(well, at least since it was discovered)

rise of Life on Earth becomes
more puzzling....

the faint young sun paradox
can't be solved by an
excessive greenhouse effect in the past

Hitting paydirt on Mars
(NY Times)
unexpected rocks,
unexpected water,
& a disappointing lack of methane

Supervolcanoes hiding in plain
sight on Mars?

(Sky & Telescope, Nature)
they could explain the equatorial
dust deposits on the Martian surface

Cassini discover polypropylene on Titan
so there are grocery stores on Titan?

water-rich planetary building
blocks found around
a white dwarf


similar story
(Scientific American)

telescope tandem finds first
evidence for B-mode polarization
in CMB

but does it tell us about inflation or
gravitational lensing?

animation of Earth's
night sky
as Milky Way and Andromeda merge

since you won't be around
to see it in several billion years

download the 25th
anniversary issue of Physics World

and find out
  • The top five discoveries in fundamental
    physics in the past 25 years

  • The top five images that let us "see"
  • important physical phenomena

  • The five biggest unanswered questions
  • in physics

  • The five people who are changing
    the nature of physics

  • The top five spin-offs from physics
    that will most affect everyday life

is the Higgs the generator
of dark matter?

the result of an asymmetry
between the Higgs
and its antiparticle?

Higgs breaks silence and
actually answers questions

(New Scientist)

Physics Nobel to
Higgs & Englert

physics Nobel prize

Press release
Popular information
Advanced information

What is the Higgs?

(NY Times)
an explanation in 52 cartoon-slides

The twists and turns
of Hi(gg)story

(Matt Strassler)
why the Higgs matters,
higgs field vs higgs particles,
and a whole lot more

The Multiverse is not a paradigm
and it's not shifting anything

rational observations on
multiverse silliness

Hairy Black Hole could
show gaps in General Relativity

(New Scientist)
gravitational-wave imprint
might give a clue as to what's inside

the Amplituhedron curiosity:

A Jewel at the Heart of
Quantum Physics


The Amplituhedron and
other excellently silly words

the education wars

My wife,
the (former) overburdened teacher

(Raleigh N&O)

a 106-question standardized
test for 11-year-olds

(Washington Post)

Spying on Moral Monday Protesters?
(Raleigh N&O)
who ordered it?
what info was collected?
is it still going on?

Noble Prizes
awarded this week

miscellaneous physics

Feynman Lectures,
Volume I
(html version)
free and on-line
Volume II and III
in preparation

Why are there still so few women in science?
(NY Times magazine)
a longish article by a woman
who chose not to pursue grad study in physics

and a commentary
by a woman who did


10 sleazy things
Congress members did during
the shutdown

(Huffington Post)
berating park rangers;
keeping the congressional
gym open as  an essential
service; etc.

where the GOP
'suicide caucus' lives

(The New Yorker)
southern & mid-west,
less diverse,
less educated....
they live in a different world

Rich People Just Care Less
(NY Times)
as if we didn't know

Raleigh police secretly inflitrated 'Moral Monday' planning meetings
they were 'keeping an eye out for anarchists'

useless trivia

100 things you
don't need
to do before you die


reading fiction makes you
a nicer person

(New Scientist)
but pulp fiction doesnt count

late September 2013

heads up! Earth to leave habitable zone
in 1.75 billion years

Curiosity comes up empty
in search for life of Mars

(NY Times)
no evidence for methane

extreme silliness:
Harvest moon rises this week

How to see it

(Scientific American)
?? how could you miss it ??
it's s full moon !!

Pulsar on the Fence
it switches from radio to x-ray
pulses... is it a missing link?

KAVLI conference
on black holes

(with video/audio)

what's inside a black hole?

falling into a naked singularity

coldest brown dwarfs blur line
between stars and planets

Sara Seager,
exoplanet hunter,
one of 24 MacArthur
2013 grant winners

download her
free 48-page ebook on

"The Search for Habitable Planets"

Hubble/Chandra find
densest galaxy in nearby universe
10,000 stars crammed within
a few light years

universe may be slightly curved
and not flat

evidence is thin, but consistent
with latest Planck results

why the Milky Way's black hole
erupted 2 Myr ago

how the Coma cluster of
galaxies got so huge

x-ray emitting gas evidence
of recent mergers
and acquisitions

new 3-D map of
Milky Way's bulge

(Sky & Telescope)

5-year dark-energy survey

and, of course, a blog to
accompany it

why disk galaxies all look alike
the original clumps
gravitationally scatter stars
into smooth circular orbits

Gravity-wave detectors
get ready to probe
the Big Bang

(preview of October
issue of Scientific American)

did a hyper-blackhole spawn
the universe?

the Big Bang was just a mirage?

first experimental measurement
of the proton's weak charge

how to see quantum gravity
in the Big Bang polarization



When every child is a winner,
we all lose

(News & Observer)

Veritasium does science explanation videos better
than anyone else

the 'how special relativity
 makes magnets work'
particularly impressive

Showdown over science
in Texas

Creationists try to remove
evolution from Texas

(why) I quit Teach for America
(The Atlantic)
hype vs. reality....

Why the 'S' in Stem is overrated
(The Atlantic)
"Do we really need more
science grads?"

My daughter's homework is
killing me

(The Atlantic)
are teachers really
giving too much


what the continents looked like millions of years ago

new IPCC report
ties climate skeptics
in knots


US gun use out of control...
should the world intervene?

how history might
have been different

the day a US B-52 dropped a hydrogen bomb on Goldsboro, North Carolina
it didn't detonate
because of a single
bad fuse

and just one of
at least 700 'significant'
US accidents ...
involving 1,250 nuclear weapons ...  between 1950 and 1968 alone."

document finally unclassified:
"It would have been
bad news ..."

spying/lying, continued

latest Snowden leak:
NSA collecting
network data for Americans
(NY TImes)

Seymour Hersh
(he's still alive?) on
"the pathetic American media"


early September 2013

A Far-Flung Possibility
for the Origin of Life

(NY Times)
we're all martians now?

What our telescopes couldn't see
(NY Times)
the socio-intellectual
perils of being an astronomer

Voyager I leaves the solar system
it's now official

Quebec crater evidence for
Earth-cooling asteroid impact
13,000 years ago?


extraterrestrial Trojan found

leading Uranus around the sun

best chance to see Venus
in the daytime:
Sunday September 8:

here's how

does Earth have a second moon?

solar satellite untangles
sun's interior motions

(NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory)
a double layer of convection cells
lies just below the surface

September guide to
the visible planets

2 in the pre-dawn;
2 in the post-sunset

new Moon mission raises
questions about future

(New York Times)

is 3C58 the remnant of the
1181 A.D. supernova?

discovers 24 new pulsars...

and it now works on
Android phones

planetary nebula mystery:

why are their axes aligned
perpendicular to the
galactic plane?


Hubble and the
Cosmic Caterpillar

how the sun lost
its lithium

super-earth Gleise 1214b
likely has water-rich

Google video hangout on
Supermassive Black Holes

(Kavli Foundation, 9/12/13)

largest concentration of
globular clusters discovered

160,000 in Abell 1689
compared to a puny
150 in the Milky Way

Parallel Worlds
if a multiverse exists,
who gets credit for
achievement, progress,
& morality?

supermassive black hole
at center of our galaxy
is presently rejecting 
99% of
its food

The 20 big unsolved questions
in science

are massive gravitons the key
to understanding dark energy?

The Origins of Space and Time

LHC celebrates 5 years of
not blowing up the world
(Scientific American)

gravitaional constant G
has changed?

(New Scientist)
" ... and this time, it's serious ..."

time crystals & perpetual motion

idea by a Physics
Nobel Prize Winner
(for discovery of quarks)
is challenged,
but he has a comeback

4 reasons Physics says that
you shouldn't exist


No child left untableted
(NY TImes)
NC's Guilford County experiment with a tablet-for-every-student....
and what the money
should have been spent on

The STEM crisis is a myth
instead of creating more STEM careerists, we should concentrate on making
everyone literate in STEM

Return of the Texas Creationists
(NY Times)
yes, it's a horror movie

Admitting the master's pay
mistake in NC

Greensboro News & Record)
what?  NC Republicans
(OK, 2) admit they made
a mistake?

The Great Stagnation of
American Education
(New York Times)
consequences &
possible solutions

Wrongly narrowing
education's purpose

(Raleigh N&O, 9/2/13)
"To  grind down teacher pay and expenditures per child so that they match a handful of states at the bottom of the nation reflects thoughtless leadership..."

E-rate funding needs
money for keeping
internet useful to schools

(Raleigh N&O)
or, one more reason our
schools keep keep lagging the best in the world

Tuition is too damn high
(Washington Post)
 part VIII:
Are rich kids ruining college
for those less well off?


part IX:
Will MOOC's save us?
potential is there,
but the evidence is slim

American Schools are Failing Non-conformist Kids
(New Republic)
a defense of the wild child

Is technology scrambling
my baby's brain?

(the verge)
and making her/him
antisocial as well?

spying/lying, continued

NSA's next target:
university professors?

(The Guardian)
Johns Hopkins professor
asked to remove
NSA-critical blog from
his web site
update: JHU dean apologizes, reverses decision

US spied on
Brazilian oil giant
Chinese techology builder Huawei
another Snowden leak
  contradicts NSA
claims that "we don't
do economic espionage"

What's really frightening
about what the NSA did

(Los Angeles Times)

Dear stupid NSA
(Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
thanks for making us all insecure

biggest Snowden leak so far?:

(PBS story: cracking the last bastion of privacy
"this one is huge")
co-reported by
NY Times,
London Guardian,
& Pro Publica:
NSA is able to foil nearly all Internet encryption
(New York Times)
(including online banking, shopping, voting ....,
 credit card info,
medical records, etc.)

How US/UK spy agencies
defeat internet

(The Guardian)

The NSA's secret campaign
to undermine internet


the Obama administration

asked that this story not be published and claims that
this "provides a roadmap
to our adversaries"

conveniently ignoring
two facts:
1)  this is what we
accuse China of doing

2) the US government
publicly agreed never
to do this in the 1990s
during the 'clipper chip'
battle; instead it lied &
set out to do this very
thing by stealth

NYT decision to publish
ProPublica decision to publish

Google races to encrypt
everything amid NSA backlash

(Washington Post)

A guide to staying

(The Guardian)

how you can keep
(some) privacy

(Washington Post)


some insects have gears
(Washington Post)
which evolved by
natural selection

Earth's largest volcano

uhhh...what took so long?

just in:
Cow tipping is, well, bullcrap
(Modern Farmer)
it violates fundamental physics

A Dark Future for Science
(New York Times)
don't forget to send a 'thank you' note to the Republicans


A war even the Pentagon
doesn't want

the White House's Syria Secrets

(Washington Post)
and why its secrecy
makes the best case for

the US staying out of Syria

9 Questions about Syria
you were afraid to ask

(Washington Post)

the why-Syria-is-complicated
(Washington Post)

cheat-sheet on Syria
(PBS NewsHour)


Rich man's recovery
(Paul Krugman, NP 2002)

Income inequality
worst in 100 years...
what to do about it?

(NY Times)
with a remarkable graph
showing a strong correlation between income inequality and
political polarization

How Wal-mart keeps wages low
(Washington Post)

Years of Tragic Waste
(Paul Krugman,
NP, Economics)

what if we had actually
listened to rational
economic theory?

(Washington Post)

astro/culture updates

july-august 2013 

may-june 2013

march-april 2013