Can we actually say anything about the far future? If we can’t predict when it will rain next month, forecasting billions of years hence might seem impossible.
However, not everything is as chaotic as the weather: even predictions very far ahead are sometimes possible, especially in astrophysics and cosmology. We can be confident that there will be a total solar eclipse in the UK on 23 September 2090 because the Moon, Sun and Earth move in stable, predictable orbits with very minor disturbances, and the laws of gravity are now well-tested. Similarly, we can use known astrophysics to predict what will likely happen across the Universe as it expands.
I am very fond of the ideas the Korean writer expressed in this TED talk. I play lead guitar and vocals in a rock cover band. Often I had to hear sly comments about it, referring to teenage behavior, to ungrown kids, to the uselessness of the whole thing – who will ever care about you guys? Well, the point is completely different. We do it for ourselves. Everyone should do it, go our and practice their own art. It is not necessary to make a job out of it. We are born artists. Kids do art spontaneously. Then we teach them to grow, they have to study, find a job, take up responsibilities. Art is for artists. But why? It would be healthy if we practiced some art side by side to our own duties. It would be good for our mind and soul. The ones who do it have less problems in carrying on with every day’s life. I speak by direct experience…
So I strongly advice you to go on and read Young-ha Kim’s own words, not mine, in this excerpt from his TED talk, or watch the whole video above.
“…For many people, the idea of a “garbage patch” conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are almost entirely made up of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. Microplastics can’t always be seen by the naked eye. Even satellite imagery doesn’t show a giant patch of garbage. The microplastics of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can simply make the water look like a cloudy soup. This soup is intermixed with larger items, such as fishing gear and shoes.”
Fifty years after Apollo 11 astronauts deployed the first seismometer on the surface of the Moon, NASA InSight’s seismic experiment transmits data giving researchers the opportunity to compare marsquakes to moon and earthquakes.
Seismologists operating the Marsquake Service at ETH Zurich literally rocked and rolled as they experienced, for the first time, two “marsquakes” in the university’s quake simulator. Researchers uploaded actual data from marsquakes detected on Martian solar day or Sol 128 and 173.The marsquakes were detected by the SEIS seismometer, whose highly sensitive electronics were delivered by the Aerospace Electronics and Instruments laboratory at ETH. Continue reading
Fifty years ago, when astronauts first landed on the moon, they carried not only humanity’s highest hopes but an important experiment from Columbia.
On the afternoon of July 20, 1969, Gary Latham ’65GSAS, a thirty-three-year-old geophysicist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, arrived at NASA’s Manned Spaceflight Center (now the Johnson Space Center) in Houston to witness the fulfillment of thousands of years of curiosity and wonder: humanity’s first attempt to land men on the moon…
The greatest stresses a human being is exposed to during life are thought to be: the loss of a loved one, marriage and divorce, a new job or being fired, a relocation, and the birth of a child. We all have to confront ourselves with most of them sooner or later, there is no way to avoid it, that’s life. I know someone who has never changed address since he was born (when he got married he moved to another floor in the same building); he divorced eventually but he kept living in the same flat. He had lost his father too early and had to get himself a job when he was very young. Maybe he never changed home and ended up with no children to spare himself some stress. Continue reading
TED talks are illuminating. I appreciate most of them and unfortunately it is impossible to follow all of them. But I was drawn by the title “The power of introverts” by Susan Cain. She clarified the concept for me: there is a difference between being shy and being introvert. I already new that both are not the problem our society wants them to be. My favorite Italian pediatrician, a follower of Winnicot’s theories and a radicalist as the likes of Ivan Illich and William Godwin, makes a strong point about it: an introvert or shy kid will most certainly become a gentle person; the opposite is not that obvious.
Not many of us are lucky enough to be who they really are. The luckiest at least just “know” who they really are even if they actually aren’t that. I’ve always admired people who made a life out of their passions. It takes a lot to do it, unless your passion is working for a bank or be a government employee. You study and work in order to get a job and you’re done. What if you want to be a painter? The entire world will tell you not to do it, you will be starving, you need at least a plan B. But the ones who keep on and succeed in this are the one who did not listen… Continue reading
Many are aware that dinosaurs disappeared nearly 66 million years ago, after a major climate change that made their environments inhospitable. Most people know about the dinosaurs disappearance, but few know that what happened at the end of the Mesozoic era was actually a mass extinction. Well, maybe even fewer people know that some clues of what happened in that period have been first found in central Italy, close to Saint Francis’ hometown, near a small city in the Apennines called Gubbio. The story is about father and son, Louis Alvarez, a Nobel prize physicist, and Walter Alvarez, a renown American geologist at Berkeley with a love for Italy.
What’s so special about the “sampietrini”, those little square bricks typical of Rome’s old roads? The sampietrini have been used since the times of pope Sixtus V in the late 1500s but the name was invented later in 1725 after the new paving project of St. Peter’s square. “Hard as a sampietrino” is a common expression in Rome. Sampietrini are made of a hard and heavy volcanic rock. It is very interesting to a geologist: at first sight, you might confuse it with basalt; well, maybe a special kind of basalt. Actually, it is not correct to call it basalt. It is a rather rare rock around the world, but not in the Mediterranean area. But everything would be clearer if we knew more about the basalts themselves…